Lionel Messi resumes scoring race with Cristiano Ronaldo
Current goal total in La Liga: Ronaldo 12, Messi 5
While Lionel Messi helped Barcelona win the Club World Cup in Japan before the Christmas break, Cristiano Ronaldo added two goals vs. Rayo Vallecano to extend his lead against the Argentine. With La Liga resuming this weekend, both players should have ample opportunity to add to their goal totals, according to ESPN's projection model.
Messi is projected to pick up 1.4 goals vs. Real Betis at the Camp Nou and Ronaldo is just behind at 1.3 goals as Real Madrid welcome in Real Sociedad to the Bernabeu Stadium.
(Note that the projected numbers for Messi and Ronaldo are based on each player starting their respective game.)
2015-16 total-goals projection
Ronaldo, who currently leads his great rival by seven goals, remains the overwhelming favourite to win the head-to-head battle during the course of the season.
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2015-16 milestone projection
By missing two months of the season through injury, Messi's chances to hit various goal landmarks have decreased, although he is still predicted to end the season with an impressive haul. Ronaldo is tipped for higher numbers.
How does the projection model work?
Here's a brief explanation from its creator, ESPN Stats & Information analytics specialist Zach Bradshaw:
"These projections account for the historical performance (goals scored and minutes played) of the two players since 2010, strength of opposing defences faced (measured by SPI defensive rating), game location, and the potential for injury or missing games. Based on these inputs, the predictor will estimate the chance of each player scoring any number of goals for each remaining game. From this, we can project the total number of goals scored, hat tricks and the chance of each player accruing more goals than the other over the course of the entire Liga season."