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Cristiano Ronaldo extends goal lead over Lionel Messi, Barca still top

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 33, Messi 26

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Real Madrid hung on for a 3-2 win against Valencia while Lionel Messi scored Barcelona's opener and set up another in their 5-0 rout of crosstown rivals, Espanyol.

Those results mean that La Liga won't be decided until the final day of the season: Barca have 88 points and a plus-80 goal difference, while Real Madrid are a point behind and boast a plus-74 differential.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in Sunday's 3-2 win over Valencia. Real Madrid still have a shot at the title.

Ratings and review

Here's what our Real Madrid club blogger had to say about Ronaldo's performance.

Ed Alvarez on Ronaldo: 8/10 -- Like nothing ever happened, Ronaldo looks back in impeccable form after the injury that kept him out of a couple of matches last week. His second goal, beautifully taken with his left foot after a 30-metre sprint, proves the point. Together with Kiko Casilla, he's probably the reason Real Madrid won this match.

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

Lee Roden on Messi: 8/10 --  Produced a delicious free kick with both power and swerve to break the deadlock, then almost created another minutes later after a quick linkup with Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic. Showed lightning-quick reflexes early in the second half to instantly assist Suarez after receiving the ball in the final third from Dani Alves.

Socially speaking

How did Twitter react to their latest displays?

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

We're heading into Week 38, the final game of the 2015-16 season and the title is on the line. Real travel to Deportivo La Coruna, who are sitting comfortably in mid-table, while Barca visit 16th-place Granada. If Barca win, the title is theirs while if they draw and Real Madrid are victorious, the title heads to the Bernabeu.

Messi opened the scoring in Sunday's 5-0 thrashing of Espanyol to stay in control of their title destiny.

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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