Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo: 5 Predictions for World's Best in 2012-13
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi enjoyed vintage seasons in 2011-12. The new campaign promises more of the same.
It also promises to answer several questions.
Who will score more goals?
Will Messi or Ronaldo claim the Ballon d'Or again?
Can Real defend its league title, or will Barca take it back?
Read on for five predictions about Ronaldo and Messi for the 2012-13 season.
50 Goals in All Competitions for Both
Admittedly, this isn't all that bold a prediction. Lionel Messi scored 73 goals—an all-time world record at club level—last season in all competitions. Cristiano Ronaldo scored 60.
Even if they each show a slight dip in production, it's reasonable to think both can hit at least 50 again. Both Barcelona and Real Madrid play enough matches and compete for enough titles to make it plausible.
Also, both clubs feature potent offenses that provide their superstars with numerous scoring chances.
Messi to Win Pichichi
Spanish newspaper Marca awards the Pichichi Trophy to La Liga's top scorer every season.
That top scorer will be Lionel Messi again this season. The reasons are self-evident.
Messi plays in the False 9 role, and Barca's offense and general approach are tailored for him to score goals by the handful. It has already started, with Messi scoring four times in two league matches.
Barca Will Retake the League
Real Madrid won the league title last season, overtaking Barcelona in manager Pep Guardiola's final season running the team. Jose Mourinho's squad set a number of records along the way, including points, goals and goal difference.
This season, Barca will find their revenge under new manager Tito Vilanova.
Granted, players like Xavi and Carles Puyol are aging, and their powers are diminishing. But Andres Iniesta's importance continues to grow, and as he showed with Spain this summer, he's capable of being the key man in a championship side.
Barca also reinforced the squad with full-back Jordi Alba and midfielder Alex Song. David Villa's return from injury will be like another signing.
Real, meanwhile, have only signed Croatian midfielder Luka Modric so far. Will he really be enough, and will he be able to fit into the squad right away?
While Real answer those questions, Barca could be pulling away up the table.
Both in Champions League Final
Both clubs experienced European disappointment last season, crashing out of the UEFA Champions League at the semifinal stage. The world was thus deprived of the anticipated Real-Barca final.
It will happen this time.
Barca and Real have probably the two most talented squads, and after last season's disappointment, it's likely the clubs will make the Champions League a priority.
Bayern Munich remain strong, and Manchester United have a world-class strike force in Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie (that is, once Rooney returns from injury). PSG have spent wildly, but have yet to come together as a team, and AC Milan have regressed.
Other challengers could include defending champs Chelsea, Serie A winners Juventus and Premier League champions Manchester City, but both Real and Barca would be favored against all of those teams.
And the Ballon d'Or Goes To…
In fairness, Lionel Messi recently completed his greatest individual season, scoring 73 goals—again, an all-time record at the club level—in all competitions. That's enough to warrant another Ballon d'Or.
Bur Ronaldo was impressive as well during Real Madrid's record-breaking run to a statement-making league title. Ronaldo also shined at Euro 2012, as Portugal reached the semifinals.
Speaking of Euro 2012, Andres Iniesta was a key performer in Spain's successful quest for a second straight title. Iniesta was so influential that UEFA named him the player of the tournament.
That will surely earn him a significant number of votes on this year's Ballon d'Or ballot. It's reasonable to wonder whether Iniesta could siphon votes away from his Barcelona teammate.
Ronaldo and Real already passed Messi and Barca in the league. This could be the year Ronaldo overtakes Messi in the Ballon d'Or voting as well.