Chelsea, Inter and the teams Messi has never scored against

Of all the teams the Barcelona forward has faced, he has failed to hit the net against just 12, including Tuesday’s Champions League opponents

A career spent as one of the world’s most prolific goalscorers and perennially at the top of the game, Lionel Messi has upset a huge number of teams as a star for Barcelona.

The Argentine’s exploits have led the Catalan side to global success and helped keep them within the top echelons of European football.

So consistent has Messi been that it is easier to name the teams he has failed to score against in his senior career since he emerged in Barca’s senior side as a 17-year-old in October 2004.

Of all the teams Messi has faced in the near 13 and a half years since his first appearance for the Blaugrana, he has failed to hit the net against just 12.

He will get the chance to knock one of those teams off the list on Tuesday when his side visit Chelsea in the Champions League. Goal runs through the teams the Camp Nou icon has never scored against.

#12 Gramenet

Messi’s third official appearance and first start for Barcelona was also his first defeat with the senior side, as Frank Rijkaard’s men lost to Gramenet in the Copa del Rey.

Despite the presence of Messi, Henrik Larsson and Andres Iniesta in the starting XI, the Blaugrana could not find a way through against the third-tier team and conceded the decisive goal in extra-time.

It is the only time Messi has come up against his side’s Catalan neighbours.

#11 Udinese

With just one goal to his name for the Camp Nou outfit, Messi was still far off the level that carried him to five Ballons d’Or when he lined up against Udinese in September 2005.

Back then, he was just a promising youngster lucky enough to be playing in attack alongside Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o.

It was the Brazilian who showed he was still the grandmaster in the Champions League encounter, scoring a hat-trick in a 4-1 win.

Messi, meanwhile, was withdrawn in the 70th minute and although he scored in his next Champions League appearance, he was left out of the next two group games, one of which was the return clash with Udinese.

#10 Cadiz

In December 2005, Messi missed another rare chance to add another name to his long list of victims in a game against Cadiz.

The Argentine got an assist as Barca won 3-1, setting up Samuel Eto’o early in the second half.

Messi was injured when the two sides met later in the season in a much tighter affair but, luckily, Ronaldinho was on hand to score the winning goal as Barca went on to win the league.

He has not faced them since.

#9 Real Murcia

The 2007-08 season may have been a disappointment for Barcelona, as they finished third in La Liga, an incredible 18 points behind champions Real Madrid.

However, it ended with a lot of fun, as they recovered from the concession of an early goal to storm to a 5-1 lead over Real Murcia in the final game of the season.

Messi again got two assists, but it was Giovani dos Santos who took the plaudits for his hat-trick. While Barca have faced Murcia several times since, Messi has not played in any of those games.

 Al Sadd

Barca strolled to Club World Cup success in 2011 with 4-0 wins over Al Sadd and Santos.

Although Messi outshone a young Brazilian superstar by the name of Neymar by scoring twice in the tournament decider, the Argentine was unsuccessful in finding the net against Al Sadd in the semi-finals.

He did, however, set up Seydou Keita for Barca’s third goal in a routine win.

#7 Girona

Messi may have drawn a blank against Girona in his first meeting with the newly-promoted side earlier this season, but they hardly needed him at his best.

Barca were gifted two own goals by the hosts before Luis Suarez put the game beyond doubt.

Messi could bring this list of teams down from 12 to 10 by the end of the week, as Barca travel to Chelsea on Tuesday before taking on Girona again at the weekend.

#6 Liverpool

Messi, Ronaldinho, Xavi and Deco could do little to prevent Liverpool from marching to the 2007 Champions League final when they met at the last-16 stage.

Rafael Benitez’s men got the crucial away goals with a 2-1 win in Camp Nou before Barca edged the return leg 1-0. Despite Messi starting and finishing each game, he could not find a crucial goal to put Rijkaard’s men through.

The Anfield side have been lucky to have evaded his reach in the near 11 years since.

#5 Benfica

Barcelona came up against Benfica early in Messi’s career, when they overcame the Portuguese side in the quarter-finals on their way to Champions League success in 2006.

The Rosario-born star was was ruled out for the tie through injury, however, and did not get a chance to face them again until 2013.

He orchestrated one win over the Eagles with two assists, but Benfica go down as another side that he hasn’t scored against in two attempts.

#4 Xerez

Messi certainly has a reasonable excuse for having never struck lucky against Xerez.

Although he played against them twice in La Liga in 2009-10, he was a second-half substitute each time and played a limited role in victories for Pep Guardiola’s team.

#3 Inter

It was Jose Mourinho’s Inter who halted Barca’s march to another Champions League crown when they knocked the Catalan side out in dramatic circumstances in the semi-finals in 2010.

The two sides met four times in the competition, having also been drawn in the same group, but Messi was kept quiet in the three times he featured against that year’s tournament winners.

#2 Rubin Kazan

Russian side Rubin Kazan have proved a surprisingly stubborn side when it comes to facing the Blaugrana in Europe.

Even the attacking prowess of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner has proved futile in any game he has played against them.

The Argentine has been on the winning side against Rubin just once in the four times he has faced them, drawing two and losing one.

#1 Chelsea

A fixture with a lot of history, meetings between Barcelona and Chelsea in the Champions League generate a great deal of excitement and controversy.

Of the eight times Messi has taken on the Stamford Bridge side in the last 12 years, he has been on the winning side just once, in 2005-06.

He did have an integral role in the most exciting moment between the two sides in recent years when he set up Andres Iniesta for the big winner in their 2009 semi-final leg at Stamford Bridge.

However, in eight games against the Blues, Messi has never found the net.

Will that change on Tuesday?

Aguero to face no action over Wigan fan fracas

The FA has been investigating events at the DW Stadium throughout Tuesday and it has decided not to take any action against the Argentina striker

Sergio Aguero will face no punishment from the Football Association for his role in a fracas with Wigan fans following Monday night’s FA Cup clash, Goal has learned.

The FA has been in discussions with Manchester City and Wigan throughout Tuesday, and sources have told Goal that the governing body has recently informed Aguero that he will not be charged.

Hundreds of Wigan supporters flooded the pitch after their side knocked City out of the FA Cup at the DW Stadium on Monday, one of several other incidents under investigation by the FA.

Aguero was approached by a small number of fans and was seen jostling with them, seemingly after being provoked, before he was pulled away from the scene.

Sources have told Goal that City and Aguero are considering legal action against one fan, who they allege hit the striker, spat at him and said “suck my d***’.

Goal also reported earlier on Tuesday that the FA would be studying footage of the incident, captured either by broadcasters or supporters, to establish the facts.

They have since decided that Aguero does not have a case to answer, and have conveyed that message to City’s lawyers.

Aguero was approached by a small number of fans and was seen jostling with them, seemingly after being provoked, before he was pulled away from the scene.

Sources have told Goal that City and Aguero are considering legal action against one fan, who they allege hit the striker, spat at him and said “suck my d***’.

Goal also reported earlier on Tuesday that the FA would be studying footage of the incident, captured either by broadcasters or supporters, to establish the facts.

They have since decided that Aguero does not have a case to answer, and have conveyed that message to City’s lawyers.

Lewandowski vows to ignore Real Madrid rumours and focus on Bayern

The prolific Poland international striker is aware of the speculation surrounding his future, but has learned to turn a deaf ear to it down the years

Robert Lewandowski has reiterated his full commitment to Bayern Munich as he continues to ignore links to Real Madrid.

The prolific Poland international is among those who continue to be mentioned as possible additions during a summer overhaul at Santiago Bernabeu.

He has figured on the Real radar for some time, with the La Liga giants forever in the market for players of his pedigree.

Lewandowski has, however, batted away transfer talk at regular intervals and claims to be paying no attention to the latest round of rumours heading towards the summer window.

He told Kicker when quizzed on his future once again: “At the moment I do not worry about it.

“If I was to think about this speculation as a Bayern player, it would not be good for me because I would not be focused on my job here.

“I’m a Bayern player and I want to give everything here first.”

Real already boast one of the finest frontmen on the planet on their books, in the form of five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.

Lewandowski is, however, a different kind of goalscorer, with the former Borussia Dortmund man eager to point out that Ronaldo and his eternal rival at Barcelona, Lionel Messi, have life a little easier as forwards, rather than out-and-out strikers.

The 29-year-old added: “It’s sometimes more difficult for a centre-forward because he often stands with his back to the goal, holding the ball, watching what can happen.

“Turning around with it’s easier, when you have everything in front of you.”

Lewandowski’s predatory instincts will be back on show in midweek when Bayern take on Besiktas in the last-16 of the Champions League.

The German giants are heavily fancied to progress to the quarter-finals, and their star striker says success in the competition should come as no surprise.

He added: “It would not be a sensation if Bayern won the Champions League. But it might get harder in the future when you see what’s going on in the other leagues.

“The Bundesliga must be careful that it retains four qualifying positions. It would be good if next to Bayern and Dortmund, a third team would be constantly represented in the Champions League.”Source: www.goal.com

Klopp considers Liverpool squad to be best he has worked with

The Reds boss tasted Bundesliga title wins and European success with Borussia Dortmund, but claims he never boasted his current depth of talent

Jurgen Klopp considers Liverpool’s star-studded class of 2017-18 to be the best squad he has ever worked with.

In a previous post at Borussia Dortmund, the German coach tasted Bundesliga title triumphs and reached a Champions League final.

He had the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Marco Reus and Ilkay Gundogan at his disposal, but claims he never boasted the squad depth he now has at Anfield.

Liverpool have competition for places across the board, with Klopp in the enviable position of being able to rotate as he sees fit without fear of depleting the quality in his starting XI.

He told the club’s official website on those at his disposal: “It’s really hard in the moment to make the squad.

“Wow, I’ve never had a situation like that with the quality of the players not being in the squad.

“They all have made really big steps. Dom Solanke was not in the squad but is in outstanding shape at the moment. Ragnar Klavan, unbelievable. Ben Woodburn makes steps and is really close to everything.

“It’s difficult, it’s getting more and more difficult, but that’s good for us of course.”

Among those to have further bolstered the Liverpool ranks over recent weeks is Danny Ings, with the England international back in contention following a frustrating run of injuries.

The 25-year-old made his Champions League debut off the bench in Liverpool’s 5-0 mauling of Porto in the first leg of their last-16 encounter and is being backed to figure prominently over the remainder of the campaign.

Klopp added: “It’s a wonderful story. Danny made it, he came on and it was nice to see.

“He needed time. A few months ago it was different, but a player like him when they come back they think ‘I am under pressure’ and they want to come in immediately and get game time.

“Danny went the hard way. He played a lot of games for the under-23s.

“That he is back now is very important for us and fantastic for him.”

Source: www.goal.com

‘Conte one of the world’s best managers’ – Valverde defends Chelsea boss

The Blues boss continues to come under pressure after an inconsistent campaign, but the Barcelona coach has defended his opposite number

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is “one of the best managers in the world”, according to his opposite number at Barcelona, Ernesto Valverde.

The two giants of European football will face-off on Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie at Stamford Bridge.

Despite two convincing home wins in the last seven days, the pressure remains on Conte after an indifferent defence of the Premier League title his side won last season.

The former Juventus boss continues to be linked with a move away from west London, with Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan all reportedly interested in his services next season.

But Valverde insists his team will not be taking the Blues lightly while leaping to the defence of Conte.

“Antonio Conte is one of the best coaches in the world,” he told a press conferene. “He’s got a fantastic CV, not just here in England after winning the league with Chelsea, but with Juve and with his national team.

“His teams are well drilled tactically. They know what to do in every moment and it’s a real challenge.

“We’re planning to change our dynamic a little bit away from home. They’re physical, they defend well. They’ve got players who can hit you well on the counterattack.”

Tuesday’s clash will mark the 13th time Barca have faced Chelsea in the Champions League, with the Premier League outfit holding the recent edge.

The Blues are unbeaten in their last seven games against the Blaugrana, though Barca have won three of the five knockout ties between the teams across two legs.

Valverde admits he is looking forward to adding another chapter to their rivalry, but took time to remind his hosts of previous results.

“History counts,” he said.

“The main players change during the game. [Lionel] Messi, [Andres] Iniesta might still be there, but I think it’s good that there’s been a little rivalry, it gives us a little bit more expectation.”

Surprisingly, Barca star Messi has never scored in 655 minutes of action against Chelsea, although Valverde knows his team will offer plenty of support to the Argentina international as he seeks to end that unhappy sequence.

“This tie is important for Leo, for me, for everyone. For Barcelona. It’ll be tough, but it’s important because we want to qualify,” he said.

“Leo perhaps hasn’t had much luck against Chelsea before, but Tuesday is a different game.”

Source: www.goal.com

Didier Drogba’s son Isaac joins Guingamp

The French outfit completed one of the most attention-grabbing moves as they have signed the Chelsea legend’s son

Guingamp U19 have completed the signing of Isaac Drogba, the son of Chelsea and Cote d’Ivoire legend Didier Drogba.

The French side confirmed the deal on Monday, with the 17-year-old forward, who trained with the Blues youth setup returning to the team his father played for 16 years ago.

“Drogba joins the EAG! The recruitment cell of the academy EAG is very pleased to record the signature of Isaac Drogba, son of Didier Drogba. Born in Vannes, on December 15, 2000 and trained in Chelsea, he joined the U19 of the academy,” the club tweeted.

Drogba joined Las Costarmoricains in an £80,000 move from Le Mans. There, he scored 24 goals in 50 appearances before linking up with Olympique Marseille.

Excited by this move, Drogba senior took to Instagram to express his delight. “Couldn’t be more proud of you Isaac Drogba.”

Source: www.goal.com

Man City striker Aguero clashes with fan after game

The striker shoved a fan who stormed the field after Wigan’s shock FA Cup win and had to be restrained as the two engaged in a shouting match

Sergio Aguero was involved in a post-game clash with a fan which involved a shove and a shouting match following Manchester City’s shock 1-0 FA Cup loss to Wigan Athletic.

Following the Wigan victory, the club’s fans rushed the field to celebrate their club’s monumental upset.

And one of those fans made contact with Aguero, who shoved him off. Then Aguero needed to be restrained as he engaged in a shouting match with the fan, with multiple people coming between them.

Aguero started and went the distance in the FA Cup fifth round contest at the DW Stadium, home of the League One side.

City were put in a difficult position in the contest, thanks red card Fabian Delph in stoppage time of the first half, which left manager Pep Guardiola fuming.

However, it still took a bit of magic from Wigan striker Will Grigg, who scored in the 79th minute to give his side the shock advantage, which held until the final whistle.

Wigan fans ran onto the field after the final whistle, and one made contact with Aguero, causing the striker to swing his arm to push the fan away.

He then was momentarily held back by Wigan’s Cheyenne Dunkley before charging toward the fan. Another fan got between them, while a City player pulled back Aguero.

Aguero ducked away, while more people came between the two. Both he and the fan appeared to be shouting at one another.

It was only City’s third defeat of the season in all competitions. Previously they had lost a meaningless Champions League group stage game against Shakhtar Donetsk, with only meaningful defeat prior to Wigan a 4-3 setback at Anfield to Liverpool.

The loss ends Manchester City’s hopes of achieving the quadruple this season. They can still pull off the treble though, as they remain 16 points ahead of rivals Manchester United in the Premier League, are in the final of the Carabao Cup against Arsenal and have a commanding 4-0 lead in their Champions League last 16 tie with Basel.

Source: www.goal.com

Conte: Chelsea will need a ‘perfect game’ to stop Barcelona and Messi

The Italian tactician is aware of the challenge facing his side against the Spanish giants in their upcoming Champions League tie

Antonio Conte acknowledged Chelsea must produce the “perfect game” to get the better of Spanish giants Barcelona in their Champions League last-16 tie.

Premier League champions Chelsea welcome La Liga leaders Barca and Lionel Messi to Stamford Bridge for the opening leg on Tuesday.

It has been a difficult season for Conte and Chelsea amid uncertainty over the Italian’s future following back-to-back defeats in the league, though the Londoners have responded with wins over West Brom and Hull City.

Conte, however, insisted Chelsea face a huge challenge against Barca, who stayed undefeated in Spain courtesy of Saturday’s 2-0 win at Eibar , which moved Ernesto Valverde’s men 10 points clear.

“On one hand you know this team are one of the best in the world – maybe they are favourites to win this competition,” Conte said. “On the other hand we must be excited because we have a great opportunity to play a massive game against a really strong team and to show which is our level.

“For sure we are talking about one of the best teams in the world. We have to try to, I repeat, have the perfect game. The perfect game to try to make the best decisions for this type of team, because this is a different opponent. They have fantastic characteristics with the ball, but they can have weaknesses without the ball and we have to try and exploit this.”

Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi has led the way this season with a La Liga-high 20 goals for Barcelona.

But Conte believes it would be dangerous for Chelsea to focus solely on stopping Messi, who has never scored against the Blues.

“I hope to continue this tradition [of Messi not scoring against Chelsea] but I repeat we are talking about a fantastic player and we must have great respect,” Conte added. “But at the same time we must try to be excited to play this type of game and this challenge.

“We are talking about one of the best players in the world but, for sure, we have to work together, work with the team and not only with one player to try and stop him. Because I think that when we feel this type of challenge to man-mark [a player], Messi can become very dangerous.”

Three of the four Premier League clubs in the last 16 of the Champions League have already played, with Liverpool and Manchester City both earning impressive wins away from home while Tottenham were held to a 2-2 draw against Juventus in Turin. 

Source: www.goal.com

Heynckes praises game-changing Muller after Bayern Munich comeback

The Germany international emerged from the bench to play a key role as his side came from behind to beat Wolfsburg on Saturday

Jupp Heynckes has paid tribute to game-changing Thomas Muller following Bayern Munich’s last-gasp win over Bundesliga strugglers Wolfsburg.

Daniel Didavi’s early opener had put the hosts ahead and, although Sandro Wagner levelled midway through the second-half, Bayern had to wait until the 91st minute for a winner – Robert Lewandowski converting from the spot after Arjen Robben had already seen an earlier penalty saved.

Muller’s introduction in the 62nd minute proved a big turning point in the contest, and Heynckes says the Germany forward was key to Bayern’s triumph.

“The substitution of Muller changed our game, because he is very flexible, goes into the space between the lines and creates space for team-mates,” Heynckes said.

“With the early goal, Wolfsburg were able to raise their game and be compact and defensive. We were struggling in the first half because we just didn’t combine well.

“We had possession, but never got deep in Wolfsburg’s half. It was clear to me that we would not get chances like that.

“During the second half we played more fluently and faster, and we are happy. For Wolfsburg, that is very bitter, because they have fought exceedingly.”

Wolfsburg boss Martin Schmidt, meanwhile, lamented the lack of a clinical edge to his side’s display.

“We defended well over a long time. We lost the game today in attack, because we did not achieve much going forward,” he told the club’s official website.

“We gave the balls away too fast. We actually had a clear plan where the balls have to go. In the second half we had two or three good transfers, but the last pass was always too short.

“At some point the pressure became too great. So, it was just not enough to win.”

While Wolfsburg will now switch focus to their clash with fellow strugglers Mainz, Heynckes and Bayern turn their attention to the Champions League round of 16 clash with Besiktas in midweek.Source: www.goal.com

Allegri allays Higuain injury fears ahead of key fixtures

The Argentina international was withdrawn early on during the Bianconeri’s derby win over Torino, but his manager insists his problem is not serious

Juventus star Gonzalo Higuain was substituted just 15 minutes into a 1-0 win over Torino on Sunday, but did not suffer a serious injury, according to coach Massimiliano Allegri.

Higuain was replaced by Federico Bernardeschi early in the Derby della Mole at Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino, an apparent ankle problem prompting fears over the future availability of the Argentina striker.

Bernardeschi was also withdrawn in injury time, but Allegri does not expect either player to spend a significant period of time on the sidelines.

“Starting Wednesday we’ll regroup with everyone available, but in any event the team is feeling well and they showed it today.”

Juve host Atalanta in successive Serie A and Coppa Italia matches before visiting Lazio in the league, as they build towards the second leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie against Tottenham on 7 March.

Spurs rallied from falling 2-0 down within nine minutes at Juventus Stadium on Tuesday to earn a 2-2 draw, leaving the Scudetto holders with a tough task to progress to the quarter-finals when they visit Wembley next month.

Source: www.goal.com