It’s time for one of the most eagerly anticipated moments of the season, the match to end all matches, the event that the whole world stops to watch. It’s not just a game between two historic rivals, but also between two teams replete with individual talent and great goalscoring prowess.
If we had to single out two players whose skills and knack of converting chances have stood out in this campaign, these would be Leo Messi and Karim Benzema.
FC Barcelona striker Lionel Messi isn’t just leading the scoring charts for his club, he’s also top of the table in the league, notching up 23 goals in LaLiga Santander in 2,303 minutes. The Rosario-born legend’s position in the team is undisputed, having featured in 27 games so far and started all but two of them.
As for Real Madrid, they boast Karim Benzema, who is Los Blancos’ leading marksman and who sits in fourth place in the race for the Pichichi accolade, with 18 strikes to his name. He has played a total of 2,203 minutes and has become an essential part of Zinedine Zidane’s masterplan, starting all 25 games he has featured in this campaign.
These are two exceptional individuals who leave their mark every time they take to the field, who relentlessly find the back of the net and who are simply undroppable for their clubs.
Yet what they offer as footballers differs substantially from one another, with the Frenchman and Argentine possessing contrasting skill sets, dribbling techniques and shooting abilities. Let’s analyse these two footballing kings in greater depth.
Firstly looking at Messi, we can see that, in terms of combining with his teammates and building up play, that the Blaugrana hitman averages 71.6 passes per game with an accuracy of 82%. In addition to scoring 34% of his team’s goals, he has provided eight assists this season, which sees him tied in second place with Celta de Vigo’s Iago Aspas and Atletico de Madrid’s Marcos Llorente in the league rankings.
If we take into account finishing off moves, the Argentine forward averages 5.7 shots for every 94 minutes of football played, of which 3 are on target. As for his 23 strikes in 2020-21, 17 have come from open play while six have come from set pieces, with Messi achieving a conversion rate of 17%. Although most of these shots are taken from outside of the box, he’s not adverse to striking closer to the goal, with almost 24% of his attempts coming from inside the area.
While Karim Benzema makes a comparatively small number of passes per game – an average of 38 – the Frenchman’s success rate of these contributions is a high 83%. He has set up six goals so far this campaign, which places him alongside Real Betis’s Sergio Canales and Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal as the sixth-highest assist provider in LaLiga Santander.
Despite being a highly mobile player who is constantly seeking out space between the opposition’s defence and midfield, 40.9% of his shots have come from within the 18-yard box. While Benzema will sometimes try his luck from further out, he usually saves his efforts for closer to the goal. 18.3% of the 33-year-old’s shots have found the net and of his 18 goals scored this season, 16 have come from open play and only two from set pieces.
As for defensive duties, Benzema and Messi have remarkably similar statistics when it comes to winning back the ball, with the latter having regained possession for his side 53 times, only once more than the Frenchman.
Everybody is set to enjoy a wonderful clash of goalscoring experts; two stars who will rampage across the pitch and undoubtedly give the opposition goalkeepers a very hard time in what promises to be an unmissable encounter.
These two individuals are at one with the art of goalscoring and having already achieved a place in football’s history books they are still smashing records with no signs of letting up.