Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs Diego Costa: Who is the better striker?

VOTE: The two go head-to-head when PSG face Chelsea tonight

Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea boast two of the best strikers in world football. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Diego Costa will cross paths for only the second time in their careers when the two sides do battle at the Parc des Princes.

But who is better? The classy arrogance of the Swede or the fiery aggression of the Spaniard?

We've had a look at their stats - on home soil and in the Champions League, not domestic cup competitions - to try and come up with a definitive answer.

We've taken a range of statistics from Squawka.com that not only look at their records in front of goal, but in the midfield and even defensive third - we're looking for the better player, not just the more lethal finisher.

What quickly becomes clear is that Costa, 26, is having some real struggles in this season's Champions League.

In five matches against some pretty mid-tier opposition (Schalke twice, Sporting Lisbon twice and Maribor), Costa is yet to score or record an assist and has only created two chances in those matches. He's had 13 shots in those matches but finds the target just 63 per cent of the time, a whopping nine per cent drop (from 72) of the figure he manages in the Premier League.

Chelsea managed to get goals from other areas to cover for the Spaniard - 10 different players scored 15 games in six matches, hardly a problem - but in the knockout stage, Jose Mourinho will need his main man to start firing.

Domestic League Stats

Champions League Stats

The 33-year-old Ibrahimovic has been better in Europe, in a group that had a much higher level of competition, he played Ajax twice and at the Nou Camp against Barcelona. The Swede managed two goals from those three games, and even created a chance in each game. His shooting accuracy was not as high, however, and he also attempted fewer total shots.

On the home front, Diego Costa is king. While Chelsea are seven points clear of rivals Manchester City in the Premier League, PSG are struggling to hit the heights they reached last year, and are third in Ligue 1 behind Lyon and Marseilles.

Costa has 17 goals in 19 matches to lead the Premier League scoring charts while Ibrahimovic has a, still respectable, 11 in 17; however, Ibrahimovic has taken 59 shots to reach his 11 goals and Costa just 61. Costa also has an assist more than his rival and has created 13 more chances for team-mates, as well as having 12 more 'key passes'.

Ibra-vs-Costa.jpg
The pair go head-to-head at the Parc des Princes

In terms of build-up play, the two players have different strengths. The two have very similar pass completion percentages, though obviously the stats just look at the numbers, not the difficulty or importance of the passes.

Costa is more likely to dribble past his man, successful 'taking on' opponents just shy of double the amount of times than Ibrahimovic but the 6ft 4in Swede is a much better target man.

Although Costa has scored more headed goals (two to one) proving he is no slouch in the air, Ibrahmovic has not only won 44 aerial duels to Costa's 26, but Ibrahimovic wins more than 60 per cent of his battles, the Chelsea target man is below 30 per cent. Again these numbers do not tell the full story - Costa may be more willing to challenge for aimless punts than Ibrahimovic, for example - but they are indicative.

sport-2.jpg
The two have very different styles

Costa has a reputation as a dirty player and the number of yellow cards he has, neither player has been sent off this season, also demonstrates this. However, it would appear, perhaps, that the PSG man may be getting an easy ride by Ligue 1 referees. While we don't know the ferocity or manner of the fouls, Ibrahimovic has given away 30 free-kicks this season to Costa's 25, but Costa has been booked eight times to just two Ibra yellow cards.

The Spaniard is also crucial at winning free-kicks for the Blues - though there have been accusations of diving - and has been fouled by opponents 28 times to just 109 from Ibrahimovic.

Costa is also slightly more valuable in the defensive box, making 18 clearances to Ibrahimovic's 16.

Diego-Costa.jpg
Costa is more harshly treated by referees than his rival, it seems

As with all these head-to-heads, team style and ability will dictate much of these statistics. Ibrahimovic often plays in a more withdrawn role, helping make his arguably inferior team tick, while Costa is the battering ram forward that is fed by the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard.

The statistics show that this one is probably too close to call. Neither Jose Mourinho nor Laurent Blanc would want to swap their man for the other, because of the make-up of their current squads. Costa obviously has the bigger future, being seven years younger, but both are players at the very top of the game.

Stats from Squawka.com

Graphics by Zachary Boren

Comments