Times are a changing in La Liga. It'll be the first time in 9 years that a new season will start and we won't hear about the Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo rivalry. The Portuguese left Barcelona's rivals through the back door after a cold goodbye, and now the league will have to contend with not being the only center of attention anymore. Real Madrid is forced to find a new star to replace the irreplaceable, beginning to consider moves for Neymar, or the World Cup's stars Eden Hazard or Kylian Mbappé.

Messi will continue to lead Barcelona, and the club will have a bigger edge now that Cristiano is gone, but how to measure the impact of his absence at Real Madrid? Last season, their main player's finishing was off the mark and it led them to crash out of the race for the league title simply months after it had begun. Suddenly the Bernabéu wasn't a guarantee of three points every two weeks, and the goalless draws started to show up for the first time in over a decade, combined with Morata's and James exits, it put such strain on their attack that was previously unthinkable since Ronaldo had joined from Manchester United. In the second half of the season, he picked up the pace, ending up with unexpected 26 league goals.

We are likely to see Real Madrid to score less goals this season, but without Cristiano it's possible that Lopetegui will build a more cohesive and supportive system of all of his players instead of a one way street that prioritizes the left side of the pitch. Gareth Bale will be given a more prominent role if injuries spare him; Benzema will finally get back on track to focusing on scoring goals rather than supporting others; and Isco could start his climb to complete recognition as one of the world's best players now that a coach that has the Spaniard as his favorite was hired. Modric and Kroos will continue to combine as the finest midfield partnership in football with Casemiro as support; and the defense will keep tight just as before, even more now that the 25 year old Raphael Varane returns from Russia with the World Cup trophy in his hands.

Real Madrid's strengths are most the same, but ultimately it's goals that wins you matches, and that will prove to be the difference in La Liga. Valverde will simply continue his work at Barcelona rather than start on a blank page like Lopetegui at Real Madrid, the Catalan club has a big edge over the league contenders, even if Messi, the ultimate weapon that has guaranteed the club 7 out of the last 10 league titles in Spain.

Cristiano Ronaldo's move to Juventus means no more head-to-head battles with Leo Messi in La Liga, but that won't stop onlookers from comparing the two archrivals says Sascha Paruk from SportsBettingDime. Messi is likely to score more domestically next season, just as he did this season: 34 goals to Ronaldo's 26. But Ronaldo scored at a higher rate, with his 26 goals coming in just 27 appearances, compared to 36 appearance for Messi; and Ronaldo also outperformed Messi in the Champions League with a stunning 15 goals in 13 appearances vs 6 goals in 15 appearances for the Little Wizard. With Juventus seeking their first Champions League title since 1996, expect Ronaldo to get heavy minutes in the UCL to try outdo the diminutive Argentine on club football's biggest stage.

The Champions League will make sure to continue the two behemoths rivalry over the next 4 years, and that's where they will be compared from now on. Should Juventus win the European trophy, it's likely that the debate of each of the players' impact in continental competitions to be done and over with, as much as any Barcelona fan would hate to admit.

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