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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Lionel Messi cuts Cristiano Ronaldo's league goals lead to five

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 16-11 Messi

Lionel Messi's goal at the weekend saw the Argentine reduce Cristiano Ronaldo lead to five in the pair's head-to-head scoring contest.

Messi was the Barcelona match-winner at Malaga, scoring with a close-range volley in a 2-1 win. Overall, the Ballon d'Or holder took six shots, three of which were on target.

Ronaldo, meanwhile, cut a frustrated figure as Real Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw at Real Betis. The Portuguese took four shots but only managed to hit the target with one.

Lionel Messi has now scored 13 goals in 17 games against Malaga.

Ratings and review

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

Ed Alavrez on Ronaldo: 5/10 -- Looked a bit slow, a bit anxious, a bit out of sync with the rest of the team. And all those bits put together depict a player that does not have much to do with the Ronaldo we're used to watching. It's not harsh to say that, had the Portuguese been more inspired, the final result would have been positive for Real Madrid. Probably the 4-4-2 formation did not favour him, but in any case, Zinedine Zidane needs to find a way to exploit Ronaldo's talent better.

Lee Roden on Messi: 7/10 -- Took less than a minute to play a perfect ball through to Luis Suarez in the move for the opener, but then went quiet for most of the first half, only reappearing when he squandered a golden chance just before the break. Much brighter in the second period, putting Barca back in front with an acrobatic volley and pulling off trademark diagonal balls to the opposite flank that helped stretch Malaga.

Cristiano Ronaldo has not scored in an away league game since Nov. 29

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.

Who will score more La Liga goals this season?

The next game

Messi is in action first next weekend when Barcelona host Atletico Madrid. The following day, Ronaldo and Real Madrid take on Espanyol.

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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