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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Lionel Messi hits hat trick to close the scoring gap on Cristiano Ronaldo

Each week, ESPN FC projects and reviews the scoring battle between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in La Liga.

Current goals total in La Liga: Ronaldo 14-9 Messi

Ahead of Monday's Ballon d'Or ceremony, Lionel Messi hit a hat trick to close the scoring gap on Cristiano Ronaldo, who did not score. 

Messi's treble -- his first of the season -- came in Barcelona's 4-0 win against Granada. The Argentine forward scored with three of the five shots he took.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo was overshadowed by Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, who combined to score all of Real Madrid's goals in a 5-0 thrashing of Deportivo. Ronaldo took 10 shots but only three were on target.

Expected to win his fifth Ballon d'Or on Monday, Lionel Messi reminded everyone of his class with a hat-trick against Granada.
Lionel Messi has scored in each of Barcelona's past four home league games.

Ratings and review

Here's what our Real Madrid and Barcelona club bloggers had to say about each man's performance.

Rob Train on Ronaldo: 6/10 -- Ronaldo shot, and shot, and shot --10 in all, but only three on target. His anger when his first half header came back off the post was considerable: The Portuguese has 14 for the season, but he is used to scoring in every game. He did provide two assists among his personal crusade for the back of the net.

Francesc Tomas on Messi: 9/10 -- The Argentinean record-breaker extended his legend with yet another memorable performance for the history books. While it is obvious that Granada are certainly not the most well-organised opponents in La Liga, the No. 10 was the decisive factor that tipped the balance in the hosts' favour. With 12 goals in the 11 games he's played since returning from a two-month absence for injury, nobody can deny Messi is now back to his best once again.

Cristiano Ronaldo, right, has only scored in eight of the 19 league games he has played this season.

Socially speaking

How did Twitter react to Ronaldo and Messi's latest displays?

What do you think about Messi and Ronaldo? Let us know using the hashtag #ESPNFCMessiRonaldo. Plus, tell us who will win this season's scoring battle in our poll.

The next game

Both men play at home on Sunday as Ronaldo and Real Madrid host Sporting, before Messi and Barcelona take on Athletic Bilbao.

The Messi vs. Ronaldo goals-projection model

All season long, ESPN FC, in conjunction with ESPN's Stats & Info group, will forecast the scoring battle in La Liga between Messi and Ronaldo using a specially designed projection model.

Here's an explanation from the model's creator, 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."


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