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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Expect Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to score on Sunday - projection

Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo is the modern game's greatest individual rivalry.

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

Lionel Messi closed the gap on Cristiano Ronaldo in the pair's head-to-head scoring battle last weekend and is tipped for more success on Sunday, according to ESPN's projection model.

So too, though, is his great rival and Ronaldo, who will be in action first when Real Madrid host Sporting Gijon, actually has more chance of netting according to the numbers, than does Messi when Barcelona host Athletic Bilbao.

(Please note that the numbers for each player are based on him starting the game.)

Messi Ronaldo weekend 20160115
Last season, Messi did not score against Athletic Club. Ronaldo did not play against Sporting, who were not in La Liga.

2015-16 total goals projection

Ronaldo still leads his great rival by five goals and, while he remains the overwhelming favourite to win the head-to-head battle over the course of the season, the gap has closed slightly.

Messi Ronaldo season 20160115
Between them, Ronaldo and Messi have won the past six Pichichi awards, given to the leading scorer in La Liga.

What do you think?

We want your input! Vote and let us know who you think will score the most goals this season, using the hashtag #ESPNFCMessiRonaldo.

Who will score more La Liga goals this season?

2015-16 milestone projection

By missing two months of the season through injury, Messi's chances to hit various goal landmarks have decreased. He is still predicted to end the season with an impressive haul, but Ronaldo is tipped for higher numbers.

Messi Ronaldo milestones 20160115
Messi has 295 career goals in La Liga. Ronaldo has 239.

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."

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