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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Projection: Lionel Messi likelier than Cristiano Ronaldo to score

Current goals total in La Liga: Ronaldo 22-15 Messi

Cristiano Ronaldo leads Lionel Messi by seven goals but, according to ESPN's projection model, the Argentine has a great chance to cut the gap this weekend.

Ronaldo is in action first, when Real host Atletico in the Madrid derby. The following day, Messi and Barcelona are at home to Sevilla.

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

Messi Ronaldo weekend 20160226
Last season, Messi scored a hat trick vs. Sevilla, while Ronaldo did not score at Atletico.

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 20160226
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 20160226
Messi has 301 career goals in La Liga. Ronaldo has 247.

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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