Debunking the Myth – Why Can’t Messi Score Against Chelsea?

 

Bigfoot. The Loch Ness Monster. Bloody Mary. King Midas.

They are just some of the world’s most intriguing myths and legends, and still to this day, none of these have been proved or disproved.

However, in the sporting world, there is one myth that has so far stood the test of time: why can’t Lionel Messi score against Chelsea?

The Barcelona and Argentina superstar has won countless trophies and awards during his illustrious career. The conveyor belt of honours he has won includes a staggering eight La Liga’s, four Champions League’s and three FIFA Club World Cups. Individually he is just as impressive, having won the Ballon d’Or five times.

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Lionel Messi poses alongside the five Ballon d’Or’s he has won throughout his career

However, there is one accomplishment that has always eluded him: a goal against Chelsea.

Messi has faced Chelsea eight times, against three different managers, but has failed to find the net in each one, totalling combined 655 minutes. Even during his record breaking season in 2011/12, where he netted 73 goals, he still fired blanks in both his matches against Chelsea.

Here is a rundown of Lionel Messi’s statistics during his matches against Chelsea:

February 22, 2006

Champions League Quarter Final 1st leg

Mins Played: 90

Shots on Target: 2

Shots off Target: 3

Penalties Taken: 0

Goals: 0

March 7, 2006

Champions League Quarter Final 2nd leg

Mins Played: 25

Shots on Target: 1

Shots off Target: 1

Penalties Taken: 0

Goals: 0

October 18, 2006

Champions League Group Stage

Mins Played: 90

Shots on Target: 1

Shots off Target: 2

Penalties Taken: 0

Goals: 0

October 31, 2006

Champions League Group Stage

Mins Played: 90

Shots on Target: 0

Shots off Target: 1

Penalties Taken: 0

Goals: 0

April 28, 2009

Champions League Semi Final 1st leg

Mins Played: 90

Shots on Target: 0

Shots off Target: 5

Penalties Taken: 0

Goals: 0

May 6, 2009

Champions League Semi Final 2nd leg

Mins Played: 90

Shots on Target: 0

Shots off Target: 1

Penalties Taken: 0

Goals: 0

April 18, 2012 

Champions League Semi Final 1st leg

Mins Played: 90

Shots on Target: 1

Shots off Target: 6

Penalties Taken: 0

Goals: 0

April 24, 2012 

Champions League Semi Final 2nd leg

Mins Played: 90

Shots on Target: 2

Shots off Target: 3

Penalties Taken: 1

Goals: 0

It doesn’t make for happy reading if you are 1) a Barcelona fan or 2) Lionel Messi. He has taken 29 shots at the Chelsea goal, all of which were guarded by Petr Čech bar one game, where Chelsea veteran Hilario stepped in.

So is Čech the reason why Messi hasn’t scored up until now? Well, of Messi’s 29 shots against the West London side, 28 of them were aimed at Čech. However, the shocking fact is that of the 28 shots at Čech, only a mere 7 were on target. Even the penalty he missed in 2012 crashed off the bar, rather than needing a save. So based on that reading, Čech himself isn’t the culprit. It’s Messi’s usually deadly finishing deserting him that is to blame.

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Messi cuts a forlorn figure as Chelsea shock the world to knock out Barcelona back in 2012

Even more worryingly, since the first game Messi played against Chelsea, way back in February 2006 (as a fresh faced long haired 18 year on the cusp of his first World Cup), Barcelona have not defeated Chelsea. The 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge was the first and last time Messi tasted victory over the boys in blue. Even the 2008/09 chaos that saw Barcelona qualify for the final at Chelsea’s expense, amid huge refereeing controversy, ended 1-1. And the Catalan giants were certainly counting their lucky stars come full time.

Since 2006, whenever Messi plays against Chelsea, the stars seem to align for Chelsea, and the Argentine just doesn’t perform to the full ability we know he has. Once again, the 2012 game at the Nou Camp stands out. Chelsea had everything against them. Barcelona had scored 102 goals at home up to that point in the season, and scored 18 goals in their last five Champions League home games. In the match, John Terry was sent off, and Gary Cahill was unavailable. Chelsea were somewhat barebones and Barcelona found themselves 2-0 up and cruising. Suddenly, Ramires grabbed one goal back, and with that Messi and his team-mates suddenly forgot where the goal was, and thus it all came together for Chelsea, culminating in that iconic Gary Neville commentary cry as Torres rounded Valdes to send Chelsea to Munich (where another extraordinary story later developed.)

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Messi collapses to the ground in despair as he watches Torres score to knock Barca out.

And to give Chelsea another sprinkle of potential good luck; Lionel Messi has failed to score against current Chelsea goalie Thibaut Courtois for five years. An sign perhaps?

In a nutshell, across the years the only team that has consistently stifled Messi of any clear chances and decent service have been Chelsea. Branislav Ivanovic was shifted to left back to deal with Messi in 2012, defending expertly, and was so committed that he ended up getting suspended for the final. Antonio Conte may need to deploy a similar tactic if Chelsea are to have similar success defensively this time around.

The only teams that have come close to Chelsea in shutting out Messi are Rubin Kazan (four times) and Inter Milan (three). Chelsea over the years have got the tactics just about right when it comes to dealing with the genius that Messi creates, and this, mixed with Messi getting caught on rare off days, have mixed together to create the perfect storm. Chelsea stands by far and away his longest goal drought, and for a man who has the ability to score for fun against the likes of Real Madrid (14 goals), Atletico Madrid (28 goals) and Arsenal (9 goals) among others, the drought stands alone as a strikingly eyebrow raising statistic.

This week, he gets his ninth opportunity to end the drought, with another one in 3 weeks if he fails this time round. If he fails to score again over these two legs, his Chelsea goal drought will stand at 835 minutes.

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The contrast in emotion is clear, Chelsea’s Raul Meireles runs in delight, as Messi and teammate Javier Mascherano look in horror.

If there is anyone on the planet who would want this drought to end the most, more than anyone, its Lionel Andrés Messi Cuccittini himself. It would complete another (self made) challenge, and lay to bed a burden he has carried with him for 12 years.

Despite all these stats and facts, you’d still have to be pretty bold to bet against Messi, in any situation. As previously mentioned, a huge part of him not scoring against Chelsea, was because his finishing has been below par. If he manages to reclaim his scoring touch, and he performs to his best once again, then this drought may never be mentioned again. After all, he is one of the best players to have ever lived; he has matured, and he is part of a striking partnership with Luis Suarez that he loves and is comfortable with. Despite scoring less these days, his monumental impact on the matches he plays in and his teammates is simply undeniable and impossible to write off.

It remains to be seen as to whether the magical Messi will finally put to bed the myth that he simply is unable to score against Chelsea. Barcelona might end up depending on it.

Because in most cases: when Messi scores, Barcelona win. And one thing ingrained into Barcelona’s DNA is winning. If they are to progress and knock Chelsea out, the Argentine will be hell bent on getting on the scoresheet, so he can finally lay to rest the Chelsea myth, once and for all.

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