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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Lionel Messi can close on Cristiano Ronaldo but both will score - projection

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

Current goals total in La Liga: Ronaldo 19-12 Messi

After each man failed to find the net in his last league outing, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi should get back to scoring form this weekend, according to ESPN's projection model, with the Argentine slightly more likely to do so.

Ronaldo and Real Madrid are in action first when they host Athletic Bilbao on Saturday. The following day, Messi and Barcelona are at home to Celta Vigo.

(Numbers for each player are based on him starting the game.)

Messi Ronaldo weekend 20160212
Last season, Messi did not score against Celta Vigo, while Ronaldo netted a hat trick vs. Athletic Bilbao.

2015-16 total goals projection

Ronaldo remains the strong favourite to win the pair's head-to-head scoring battle over the course of the season.

Messi Ronaldo season 20160212
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 with 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 20160212
Messi has 298 career goals in La Liga. Ronaldo has 244.

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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