Messi, Ronaldo and co battle to be La Liga’s top dog

Saturday’s meeting between Barcelona and Real Madrid pits the two most expensive strike forces in history against one another. (AP)

Saturday’s meeting between Barcelona and Real Madrid pits the two most expensive strike forces in history against one another.

Barca hold a big 10-point advantage over Madrid in the La Liga title race, but the battle to be the league’s top scorer between Barca’s Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar and Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale is a lot tighter.

Here, AFP sports looks at the numbers behind the six men hoping to land Spain’s Pichichi prize for La Liga’s top marksmen.

Cristiano Ronaldo (28 goals)

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring against Sevilla during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, in Madrid, Sunday, March 20, 2016. Ronaldo scored once in Real Madrid's 4-0 victory. (AP)

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring against Sevilla during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, in Madrid, Sunday, March 20, 2016. Ronaldo scored once in Real Madrid's 4-0 victory. (AP)

Much criticised for not reaching his usual heights this season, Ronaldo is still La Liga’s top scorer thanks in large part to having played every minute of the league season so far.

Ronaldo hasn’t scored against in four games against opponents in La Liga’s top four, but has looked back close to his best in recent weeks with seven goals in his last five games and is tied with Raul as the third highest scorer in Clasico history with 15 against Barca.

Luis Suarez (26 goals)

Barcelona's Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during the Champions League round of 16 second leg soccer match between FC Barcelona and Arsenal FC at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. (AP)

Barcelona's Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during the Champions League round of 16 second leg soccer match between FC Barcelona and Arsenal FC at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. (AP)

Finally free from suspension and controversy to play a full season, Suarez has become Barca’s top scorer this season with 43 in 43 games in all competitions, 26 of which in La Liga.

Such is the ease with which Barca have been winning, suspicions in Madrid have arisen that Messi’s decision to pass a penalty into Suarez’s path against Celta Vigo in February and allow him to take spot-kicks against Sporting Gijon and Rayo Vallecano were with the intention of aiding his challenge to Ronaldo to top the scoring charts.

Yet, the penalty spot is the one place from which the Uruguayan hasn’t been deadly as his efforts against Sporting and Rayo were both saved.

Lionel Messi (22 goals)

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring his side's third goal against Rayo Vallecano during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Barcelona and Rayo Vallecano at the Vallecas stadium in Madrid, Thursday, March 3, 2016. (AP)

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring his side's third goal against Rayo Vallecano during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Barcelona and Rayo Vallecano at the Vallecas stadium in Madrid, Thursday, March 3, 2016. (AP)

Despite missing two-months of the season due to knee ligament damage and playing a greater role as creator since Suarez’s arrival last season, a surge of 24 goals since the turn of the year, 16 in La Liga, have Messi in the hunt for a fourth Pichichi.

The five-time World Player of the Year is also tantalizingly close to another significant milestone as he needs just one more to reach 500 career goals after registering his 50th for Argentina as they saw off Bolivia in midweek.

Neymar (21 goals)

Barcelona's Neymar celebrates after scoring during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Villarreal and Barcelona at the Madrigal stadium in Villarreal, Spain, Sunday, March 20, 2016. (AP)

Barcelona's Neymar celebrates after scoring during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Villarreal and Barcelona at the Madrigal stadium in Villarreal, Spain, Sunday, March 20, 2016. (AP)

After a brief mid-season dip the Brazilian has come back into goal scoring form with four in three games before the recent international break.

His best run came in Messi’s absence earlier in the campaign with nine in six La Liga games in October and November, culminating in a sensational performance as Barca inflicted a humiliating 4-0 thrashing on Madrid.

Karim Benzema (20 goals)

Real Madrid 's Karim Benzema celebrates his goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Granada and Real Madrid at Los Carmenes stadium in Granada, Spain, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. (AP)

Real Madrid 's Karim Benzema celebrates his goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Granada and Real Madrid at Los Carmenes stadium in Granada, Spain, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. (AP)

The Frenchman has significantly the best minutes per goal ratio in La Liga with one every 78 minutes he’s on the pitch.

Staying there has been Benzema’s trouble in a season disrupted by injury and off-field scandals, but he is already just one off his best ever tally in a Liga campaign.

Gareth Bale (15 goals)

Real Madrid's Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring a goal against Celta during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Celta Vigo at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday, March 5, 2016. Bale scored once in Real Madrid's 7-1 victory. (AP)

Real Madrid's Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring a goal against Celta during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Celta Vigo at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday, March 5, 2016. Bale scored once in Real Madrid's 7-1 victory. (AP)

Injuries have also ravaged Bale’s season, but the Welshman’s impressive strike rate of 15 in just 16 league starts also has him on course for his best goal scoring season since arriving in Spain three years ago.

Bale has just one El Clasico goal to his name, but it was his most spectacular one in a Madrid shirt as he ran half the length of the field before slotting home to win the Copa del Rey final in 2014.

SHOW MORE
Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:47 - GMT 06:47
Top