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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Barcelona game in hand offers Messi the chance to close on Ronaldo

Current goals total in La Liga: Ronaldo 21-13 Messi

With Cristiano Ronaldo in Champions League action, Lionel Messi has the chance to close the scoring gap on his great rival this Wednesday.

Barcelona play their Liga game in hand at Sporting Gijon and ESPN's projection model predicts the Argentine will score. 

(Numbers are based on Messi starting the game.)

Messi next game 20160216
Last season, Messi did not play against Sporting Gijon.

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 20160216
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 20160216
Messi has 299 career goals in La Liga. Ronaldo has 246.

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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