Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo: Matchday 23 comparison

Soccer-Ronaldo-celebrates-after-scoring-goal

Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring his side's second goal . (Elisabetta Baracchi/AP)

After each matchday in La Liga and Serie A, Sportsnet will look at how Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo did, and compare their performances.

CRISTIANO RONALDO

After turning 34 earlier in the week, Cristiano Ronaldo celebrated in style on Sunday by helping Juventus to a convincing 3-0 road win over Sassuolo. In doing so, Juve opened up an 11-point lead over second-place Napoli.

Ronaldo had goal and an assist on the night — he was also involved in the other Juventus goal — but that only tells a portion of the story. Once again, the Portuguese star was hugely influential for the Turin-based club, as he was intimately involved in the Juve attack, recording four shots (two on target) and posting a game-high 83 percent passing rate.

German teammate Sami Khedira opened the scoring in the 23rd minute when he slotted home into an empty net after Sassuolo goalkeeper Andrea Consigli gave up a rebound on Ronaldo’s blistering shot from outside the box.

Ronaldo doubled Juventus’ advantage in the 70th minute, giving his defender the slip and beating Consigli to the ball to score a header off a corner kick. The goal was Ronaldo’s 18th of the Serie A campaign, two more than Atalanta’s Duvan Zapata and Fabio Quagliarella of Sampdoria in the league’s goal-scoring race. Ronaldo set up Juve’s final goal late in regulation after effectively linking up with Paulo Dybala and feeding a pass to Emre Can, who fired a low shot in the corner with his first touch.

LIONEL MESSI

Lionel Messi had a quiet evening — by his high standards — in Barcelona’s 0-0 draw away to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday. The Catalans remain top of the table in Spain, but Real Madrid climbed into second and closed the gap to six point following a win over Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

The stalemate ended Messi’s eight-game scoring streak in La Liga. It also marked the first league match that the Argentine failed to score or tally an assist in since September.

Not that Messi didn’t try, as he managed four shots (one on target) during the game. But he never got going against a Bilbao side that effectively closed him down when he was in possession, and limited the space in front of him.

Messi seemed to be showing the effects a recent thigh injury (he played just the final 30 minutes vs. Real Madrid in their midweek 1-1 draw in the Copa del Rey), and Bilbao took full advantage of the situation courtesy of some physical play and tough challenges.

SEASON STATS

Lionel Messi in La Liga
Top line stats: 21 goals, 10 assists, 21 games played
Total minutes: 1,707
Total shots: 101
Shots on target: 53
Pass success rate: 82.1%
WhoScored.com rating: 8.50 (ranked #1 in La Liga)

Cristiano Ronaldo in Serie A
Top line stats: 18 goals, 7 assists, 23 games played
Total minutes: 1,995
Total shots: 148
Shots on target: 60
Pass success rate: 85.6%
WhoScored.com rating: 7.84 (ranked #1 in Serie A)

HAVE YOUR SAY

MATCHDAY 23: MESSI OR RONALDO?

It’s not as though Messi had a bad game on Sunday. He didn’t, even though he didn’t score or set up a goal. Credit has to be given to Bilbao for neutralizing him. Ronaldo, meanwhile, put in a man-of-the-match performance in Juve’s win away to Sassuolo. There isn’t any doubt who had the better outing on Sunday.

Advantage: Cristiano Ronaldo.

NEXT UP

Juventus hosts Frosinone in Serie A play on Friday, and then travels to Spain to face Atletico Madrid on Feb. 20 in the first leg of its Round of 16 series in the UEFA Champions League. Barcelona welcomes Valladolid in La Liga play on Saturday, and then faces Lyon in France on Feb. 19 in the first leg of its Champions League tie.

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