Head to head: Messi, Ronaldo and Falcao showdown

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Tonight’s showdown between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid should be an engrossing affair as the top two teams of La Liga go head to head.

While Real Madrid have stuttered so far in the defence of their league crown, it is their cross-city rivals who currently look the only side capable of stopping Barcelona claiming their fourth title in five years.

But of course, it is a game full of sub-plots, and none more intriguing than the fact that Lionel Messi will be be going head-to-head with Radamel Falcao.

Both players have proved themselves to be amongst the most deadly finishers in world football; Messi’s goals this year have earned him a unique place in football’s history while Falcao’s goals look to have earned him a big-money January move to either Chelsea or Manchester City.

While Falcao actually missed out on a place on the final three shortlist for the Ballon d’Or to Andres Iniesta, there is no doubt that he, along with Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo who sits just behind the pair in the La Liga top scorers list, are the three best goal scorers on the planet.

But how do they stack up against one another? Messi is the clear leader in terms of goals but Falcao is known to rarely waste a chance, so is the Barcelona man actually the most deadly goalscorer in Europe? Or does Ronaldo, who averages more than a goal a game since moving to Madrid, beat both to the punch?

Luckily GMF is here to compare all three player’s vital statistics from the season so far to find out which one is in a league of their own. All statisitcs taken from up to December 15th 2012.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid

League goals this season: 13

Minutes on the pitch: 1280

Shots on goal: 108

Average goals per game: 0.87

Assists: 2

It has been a strange season for Cristiano Ronaldo, and in many ways his form has mirrored Real Madrid’s fortunes.

The Portuguese winger found his career in Spain under scrutiny following reports he is ‘sad’ at the Bernabeu, and you can’t help but feel that the former Manchester United man’s best is still yet to come this term.

The league looks a long shot at the moment, so the Champions League may represent his best chance to steal the limelight from his rivals. To his credit, Ronaldo outshone Falcao to help his side win the Madrid derby recently, so there is no doutbing his status as a big game player.

Radamel Falco, Atletico Madrid

League goals this season: 16

Minutes on the pitch: 1170

Shots on goal: 52

Average goals per game: 1.14

Assists: 1

Despite having less minutes on the pitch than Ronaldo, Falcao still has more goals than the Real Madrid man, which is a pretty striking statistic. Messi of course averages more goals per game than the Atletico forward.

But what is more startling is that his 16 goals have come from just 52 shots on goal, that’s an average of a goal every 3.25 shots; even Messi can’t match that (3.43 shots/goal).

Where Falcao does lag behind slightly is his overall contribution to the team, but when you can score goals like he does why would you bother passing it anyway? Messi has proven himself a better goal scorer over a longer period, but if Falcao can keep this up for the next few seasons, there is nothing stopping him being discussed as one of the greatest strikers of all time.

Lionel Messi, Barcelona

League goals this season: 23

Minutes on the pitch: 1291

Shots on goal: 79

Average goals per game: 1.53

Assists: 5

“Don’t write about him, watch him,” Pep Guardiola once said about Lionel Messi and the more he plays, the more what the former Barcelona coach says becomes true. His goals this year and across last season are well recorded - he now has 120 goals in his last 100 games for club and country.

Given the stats, there is no doubting that Messi is currently the most deadly player on the planet – his feats make him one of the greatest of all time. There are some questions about his ability to play outside a Barcelona side catered towards him, but on current form, he is just ahead of both Falcao and Ronaldo.

So the stats show that Messi averages more goals per game and contributes the most to his team, but Falcao is a more efficient striker, all the while Ronaldo lags just behind the pair. Which one would you like in your team? Leave your comments below!

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