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Lionel Messi shaves Cristiano Ronaldo's league goals lead to six

Each week, ESPN FC forecasts and reviews the scoring battle between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in La Liga.

Current goals total in La Liga: Ronaldo 31-25 Messi

Cristiano Ronaldo's goals lead has been reduced to six by Lionel Messi after the latest round of games in La Liga.

Messi opened the scoring for Barcelona in Saturday's 6-0 triumph over Sporting Gijon. The Argentine forward also claimed an assist and got three of the seven shots he took on target. 

Meanwhile, an injury forced Ronaldo to sit out Real Madrid's 3-2 comeback victory at Rayo Vallecano.

Lionel Messi scored a rare header to open the scoring for Barcelona in Saturday's 6-0 romp over Sporting

Ratings and review

Here's what our Barcelona club blogger had to say about Messi's performance.

Lee Roden on Messi: 10/10 -- Displayed his full bag of tricks on a vintage night. Showed great anticipation to head in the opening goal when [Sporting goalkeeper Ivan] Cuellar flapped at a high ball, then spent the rest of the match pulling Sporting apart with a mixture of cutting passes and trademark, explosive dribbles. Created countless chances for teammates, bagged an assist and was only denied a second goal of his own by a clearance off the line after wowing the crowd with ball juggling in the opposition area during the buildup.

Socially speaking

How did Twitter react to Messi's latest display?

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.

The next league game

It remains to be seen if Ronaldo will be available for Real Madrid's trip to San Sebastian to face Real Sociedad on Saturday, while Messi and Barcelona head south to Sevilla to take on Betis on Saturday.

The Messi vs. Ronaldo goals-projection model

All season long, ESPN FC, in conjunction with ESPN's Stats & Information 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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