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Lionel Messi stars but cannot cut Cristiano Ronaldo's league goals lead

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 missed another game through injury but Lionel Messi was unable to reduce his six-goal deficit on the Portuguese, even though the Argentine had an inspired game.

After Ronaldo sat out Real Madrid's 1-0 win against Real Sociedad, Messi only attempted two off-target shots for Barcelona at Real Betis. Instead he was decisive with creative play, setting up both of his side's goals in a 2-0 win with fine passes for Ivan Rakitic and Luis Suarez.

Lionel Messi was instrumental in Barcelona's latest win, despite not scoring himself.

Ratings and review

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

Sam Marsden on Messi: 7/10 -- His creation of Barca's second summed up his performance. Walking with the ball, there appeared to be no danger but then, out of nowhere, he produced a killer pass for Suarez and the game was done. The Argentine was good in patches but, like Barca overall, there was a lack of urgency and intensity at times, especially in the first half. Despite that, he was still the best player on the pitch.

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

Ronaldo will hope not to miss a third straight league game when Real Madrid host Valencia next Saturday. At the same time, Messi and Barcelona will meet city rivals Espanyol.

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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