Who are Lionel Messi’s favourite opponents?

Which teams have best reason to dread facing Lionel Messi and which defences has he yet to breach?

Lionel Messi

• The Argentinian has faced 38 different clubs in Europe (from 16 countries), failing to score against six: Atlético Madrid, Benfica, Internazionale Milano, Liverpool, Rubin Kazan and Udinese.

• Atlético are now the side he has gone longest without scoring against: 360 minutes in UEFA competitions.

• Chelsea are the side he has played the most minutes against (ten matches, 835 minutes); he did not score in his first 730 minutes against the Blues, but struck three times in two games against them in 2017/18.

• Petr Čech was long considered Messi’s arch-nemesis: the Czech goalkeeper did not concede in 495 minutes of UEFA Champions League football against Messi over six games with Chelsea, though the forward hit the woodwork three times – including once from the penalty spot. However, that myth was debunked when Čech faced Messi with Arsenal in the 2015/16 round of 16, the Barça ace striking three times across two legs.

• The keeper who has gone the longest without conceding against Messi in Europe is Inter’s Júlio César – 270 minutes – though Rubin Kazan’s Sergei Ryzhikov may feel he has the moral right to that title. He has been unbeaten in 237 minutes against Messi; that run took in four matches, as opposed to Júlio César’s three.

• The Blaugrana man has scored more goals against Arsenal than any other team in UEFA competition – nine in 447 minutes comprising six games. On average, that’s a goal every 49 minutes and 40 seconds.

• He scored a hat-trick in his first #UCL meeting with PSV on matchday one of the 2018/19 campaign, making the Dutch side his favourite opponents yet. Prior to that, his most amenable opponents may have been Bayer Leverkusen: Messi has hit seven goals in 270 minutes against them, at a rate of one every 38 minutes and 34 seconds. Five of those strikes famously came in one match, a 7-1 win on 7 March 2012.

• Of the big five European footballing nations, German opponents seem to suit Messi best: he scores on average every 70 minutes and 34 seconds against Bundesliga clubs. Goals are much rarer against sides from England (every 116m42s), Italy (151m10s), France (138m51s) and Spain (187m30s).

• Messi may relish Portuguese rearguards least of all; in 478 minutes against Liga teams, he has scored just twice – a goal every 239 minutes.

Source: UEFA.COM