La Liga has finally returned and there is plenty of excitement and intrigue ahead. Not least of all the fascinating rivalry of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
With each goal scored these two have continued an absurd game of one-upmanship.
Ronaldo may have beaten Messi to the punch goalscoring wise last season but Messi’s trophy haul was impressive to say the least. What can we expect from these guys this season? The answer is simple; goals, goals and more goals.
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Last season’s campaign saw Ronaldo hit 48 league goals in 35 games. Messi on the other hand bagged 43 in 38. In order starting in 2009/10 Ronaldo’s league tallies are as follows; 26, 40, 46, 34, 31. And Messi; 34, 31, 50, 46, 28. Let’s look at the average over the last six seasons.
Ronaldo: 37.5; Messi: 38.6
What will happen this season?
So while the averages may be a logical answer there are far more variables to consider. Both of these superstars’ numbers have been up and down, in a seemingly random fashion from season to season. Ronaldo had looked like he was in a decline in 2012/13 and 2013/14.
However last season he broke his personal best. This makes it even harder to predict. One important thing to consider is where each player is positioned. Last season saw Ronaldo make the transition into a true striker, however under Rafa Benitez it seems he will occupy the left side far more often.
Messi also went through a transition, albeit one from the centre to the right wing. At times he has been dropping deeper to act as a playmaker as well. Considering this I feel both player will have lower goal tallies than last season.
The players that surround Messi and Ronaldo will also have a telling impact on their respective goal hauls. With Gareth Bale awkwardly filling in at the number 10 role, Ronaldo will find his usual positions often occupied.
This will hamper is movement up front and force him wide, or into long range attempts. Despite this, especially if Real Madrid are struggling, I expect Ronaldo to take the onus on himself to drag his team bag into games.
Although I expect his numbers to drop in the new system I see no reason why he still can bag an inordinate amount of goals.
In some situations Real Madrid’s attackers often get in the way of each other, over in Barcelona however the MSN trio work seamlessly together. I expect Messi’s goal numbers to be slightly lower but his assists numbers to be higher.
As Luis Suarez continues to grow into his role I see him taking on more of the goal scoring load. We saw a perfect example of this in Barca’s first league match on Sunday against Athletic Club. Messi missed a penalty and looked lost in the opposition half at times, so Suarez stepped in to score the winner.
This may seem like Messi will suffer, but it will be the exact opposite. His creativity will continue to flourish and Barcelona as a whole will prosper. As long as they can get there injury issues under control.
Ronaldo: 39 goals, nine less than last season
Messi: 37 goals, six less than last season
Of course everything I have just laid out could be dead wrong come the final day in May. But I deserve that for trying to predict two incredibly brilliant and unpredictable players whose contributions are almost unquantifiable.