Falcao vs. Messi: Scoring the Duel Ahead of Atletico vs. Barcelona

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Falcao vs. Messi: Scoring the Duel Ahead of Atletico vs. Barcelona
Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

It's not even a debate, is it? Who would win out of sparring match between a flea and a tiger?

A flea, of course...

Okay, maybe not—although it is actually confusing when you think about it. When it comes to the footballers "La Pulga" from Argentina and "El Tigre" from Colombia, the numbers can only point to one winner.

In all competitions for Barcelona this season, Lionel Messi has scored 60 goals and set up 15 more, which makes his 49 appearances look rather paltry. It all means he has contributed, directly, to 1.53 goals every match.

Competition Appearances Goals Assists Goals/Assists per game
La Liga 31 46 12 1.87
UCL 11 8 2 0.91
Copa del Rey 5 4 1 1.00
Supercopa 2 2 -- 1.00
Total 49 60 15 1.53

Lurking somewhere in his shadow is Atletico Madrid's Radamel Falcao, whose numbers are dwarfed by his South American counterpart.

His 33 goals in 38 appearances are only added to by two assists and combine for a direct contribution to a goal 0.92 times a game—not bad, but knocked out by Messi in the fifth round.

Competition Appearances Goals Assists Goals/Assists per game
La Liga 32 27 1 0.88
Europa League 2 1 -- 0.50
Copa del Rey 3 2 -- 0.67
UEFA Super Cup 1 3 1 4.00
Total 38 33 2 0.92

When it comes to importance for their team though, it is Atletico's feline who is more relied on to produce the goals for his colleagues.

On Wednesday night, Falcao was on target as Los Rojiblancos beat Celta Vigo 3-1 in Galicia and secured third position in La Liga.

It was his 27th league goal of the season. Atleti have managed 61 in total from their 35 matches; Falcao has scored 44.3 percent of their league goals.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Last weekend, Messi was once more Barca's go-to man as he came from the bench to help them navigate past a Betis side who had twice led.

His two goals took him to 46 in the current La Liga campaign, but as Barca score so many, he's actually responsible for a smaller percentage of his team's goals than Falcao is in the Spanish capital.

Tito Vilanova's side are the league's highest scorers with 105, with Messi contributing 43.8 percent of those goals—a humongous 0.5 percent less than the Tiger.

Messi's prowess may dominate Falcao's in terms of numbers, but their relative importance to their side seems extremely similar.

Arguments can easily be made that Barca would not be on the cusp of the title, and that Atleti would not have secured the third spot without the duo.

When the two sides met at Camp Nou in December, Falcao fired the visitors into a first-half lead only for Barca to triumph 4-1—Messi adding two of those goals.

Jasper Juinen/Getty Images
Messi upstaged Falcao at Camp Nou in December

Their last meeting at the Vicente Calderon also ended in La Blaugrana's favor. Radamel Falcao again scored, equalizing after Dani Alves had put Barca in front, for Messi to once again have the last word, scoring a late free kick.

Against Real Madrid last month, Falcao was again on the score sheet but Atletico were again the losers in the match.

Despite his importance in Europe—top scorer in the last two Europa Leagues and a treble in UEFA's Super Cup this season—his goals have yet to influence a game against one of Spain's apex predators.

If he is to depart Diego Simeone's side this summer, he may never have another chance. He'll have to make that half a percent count on Sunday, because if he doesn't, Messi will be lurking.

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