There are many sporting battles that are billed as a “two horse race” before a campaign has even started but nowhere is the phrase more apt than when predicting the top scorer in La Liga.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have contested the title for the last four years, with Messi winning out on three of those occasions.
The deadly duo have been presented with a whiff of a challenge in the past by the likes of Radamel Falcao and Diego Forlan, but with both no longer plying their trade in Spain, it seems another straight shootout is on the cards.
Real Madrid target Luis Suarez is one man who could potentially upset the apple cart, but there are many whats and ifs to consider before then.
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is adamant that the Uruguayan hit-man – who narrowly missed out on topping the Premier League goals chart due to a four-game absence through suspension – is going nowhere.
Furthermore, despite media speculation that Real are interested in the striker, only Arsenal have so far entered a concrete bid for the controversial star.
Messi’s new teammate Neymar has been drafted in to inject even more excitement to the Catalan giants’ brand of football but while the 21-year-old is prolific for Brazil – hitting 24 goals in 39 games so far – he lacks the goal threat to challenge either Messi or Ronaldo on a domestic front and is seen as a 16/1 long shot.
The former Santos man hit 54 goals in 103 league games for the Brazilian outfit and while a goal just under every two games is an enviable tally for almost every striker in world football it sits firmly in the shadows of La Liga’s current top two.
Ronaldo – second favourite at 11/8 – scored 40 goals when claiming the title in 2010-11, a tally only bettered by Messi in the last two years.
The former Manchester United man could attract more attention than his Barca rival though, given the longer odds – Messi is 8/11 favourite – and his superior La Liga goals to games ratio.
Messi may be seventh on the all time list of La Liga scorers but the South American boasts a ratio of just 0.88 which pales in comparison to Ronaldo’s 1.09.
It is also worth noting that while Messi has claimed the title for the last two years, no one has won three in a row since Mexico’s Hugo Sanchez in 1988.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date