There are some clubs that, for one reason or another, certain strikers love to play against. Didier Drogba scored 13 goals in 15 games against Arsenal, for instance, and Romelu Lukaku has found the back of the net 11 times in his 13 meetings with West Ham.
On the flipside, though, there are numerous examples of forwards struggling to notch against a particular opponent; in this slideshow, we pick out 11 such examples.
11. Ronaldinho vs Celtic
Games: 6, goals: 0
Recently-retired Ronaldinho may smile determinedly and try to console himself with memories of winning a Ballon d’Or, the World Cup, the Champions League, the Copa Libertadores, the Copa America and a handful of league titles, but there’s a hidden pain behind that toothy grin. It haunts him that he never scored against Celtic.
It’s not as if he didn’t have the opportunity, either. At Barcelona, the Brazilian magician was in the starting line-up for six fixtures against Celtic, winning three, drawing two. He just never found the net himself. It’s OK, Ronnie. Bhoys? Don’t cry.
10. Raheem Sterling vs Manchester United
Games: 13, goals: 0
Playing for Manchester City having previously represented Liverpool, Sterling should by now be mentally conditioned to despise Manchester United. The mutual enemy of his two clubs have yet to feel his wrath, however, as the 23-year-old’s 13 games against United have produced neither a goal nor an assist (although he did nutmeg Ashley Young last time out).
At least Sterling can relax for the upcoming Manchester derby on April 7 – City should have won the title by then.
9. Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs Real Madrid
Games: 7, goals: 1
Ibrahimovic has also struggled against Juventus, scoring only once in nine fixtures against his former club, but what’s especially endearing about his one-in-seven record against Real Madrid is that they seem to follow the Swede around, taunting him. In two full matches taking on Madrid with Juve, one of them going to extra time, he scored no goals.
Two full matches with Milan: no goals. Two full matches with PSG: no goals. Los Merengues must’ve been gutted when injury prevented Ibrahimovic from facing them with Manchester United in last year’s Super Cup – they could’ve shown him all of their Champions League trophies as well.
8. Wayne Rooney vs Manchester United
Games: 6, goals: 0
To be fair to him, Rooney spent 13 years trying to score for Manchester United. Still, six games for Everton against his future/former employers have brought six defeats, three bookings and only one 90-minute outing (back in 2003 when he was just 17 years old).
Fast-forward to New Year’s Day 2018, and Rooney’s being substituted off for James McCarthy despite Everton needing a goal. That’s not what you want – and he’ll now have to wait until the 2018/19 campaign to break this particular duck.
7. Ronaldo vs France
Games: 3, goals: 0
Sometimes, great strikers lose their shooting boots at exactly the wrong time. Ronaldo failed to score in three games against France, and while one can hardly criticise him for underperforming in the 1998 World Cup Final given what had happened the night before, he’d later play in a goalless draw and a 1-0 defeat by the same opposition, the latter putting Brazil out of the 2006 World Cup.
If Ronaldo didn’t score against Les Bleus, Brazil didn’t score against Les Bleus. And it cost them – big time.
6. Lionel Messi vs Chelsea
Games: 9, goals: 1
It’s among the great mysteries of our times. What happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370? How does bitcoin work? Who made the Kardashians omnipresent? Why couldn't Lionel Messi score against Chelsea?
While their supporters would answer: “Because Chelsea are great”, consider that Atletico and Real Madrid have also been pretty decent over the past decade or so, and Messi has scored 52 times in 72 matches against the pair.
Perhaps English teams give The Flea the willies? Nine goals in six meetings with Arsenal and six in six with Manchester City, not to mention two Champions League final strikes against Manchester United, would suggest otherwise. Chelsea, though, kept Messi at bay eight times out of eight – at least until 2018 came around.
5. Ruud van Nistelrooy vs Arsenal
Games: 12, goals: 2
On 21 September 2003, the ‘Battle of Old Trafford’ ended with Van Nistelrooy smashing a penalty against the bar, Martin Keown completely losing it and Arsenal, well, not losing it – nor any other league game that season.
Van Nistelrooy had already missed a penalty against The Invincibles the previous month, in the shoot-out of the Charity Shield. He did convert from 12 yards in the 2005 FA Cup Final, only for Arsenal to triumph anyway, as they had on the previous occasion he’d faced them in that competition.
Two goals in 12 outings against the Gunners is far from desperate, but it’s fair to say they were rarely the happiest of fixtures for Van Nistelrooy.
4. Robert Lewandowski vs Borussia Monchengladbach
Games: 12, goals: 1
Lewandowski scores quite a lot of goals in Germany. He averages just under one per game against Wolfsburg, Werder Bremen, Mainz, Hannover and Hamburg, and more than one goal per game against Freiburg, while he’s popped 18 past poor old Augsburg in only 13 appearances.
Then there’s Gladbach: 11 starts, one substitute appearance, one goal. He hasn’t scored against his bogey team since 2011, some 800 footballing minutes ago.
And don’t go thinking Lewandowski’s team-mates got by without him. The Pole’s recurring heebie-jeebies in front of the Gladbach goalframe have cost his teams points, with his last eight appearances bringing Bayern two wins, two draws and four defeats. He’d be Glad to see the Bach of them.
3. Dries Mertens vs Ajax and Milan
Games: 17, goals: 0
Although the Belgian hasn’t always found the net as often as he does now, he did score 98 goals during his time in the Netherlands and has 87 to his name at Napoli. That’s a pretty healthy total.
And yet, five starts and four substitute appearances against Milan – easily an inferior team to Napoli in each of his five seasons in Italy – have brought Mertens zero goals. He must’ve thought that he’d left his bogey team behind, too, after eight starts against Ajax, including seven 90-minuters, generated the same number of netbusters. Ajax you can forgive, but this Milan side? Come on, Dries.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo vs Chelsea
Games: 15, goals: 1
Ronaldo scored a pretty significant goal against Chelsea, netting in the 2008 Champions League Final (although not in the penalty shoot-out) as Manchester United were crowned kings of the continent.
But while we can hardly dismiss that goal in Moscow, it remains Ronaldo’s only strike against a team he’s faced on 15 occasions. Pitted against the Blues, one of the most prolific players in football’s long history has scored one goal in over 20 hours of football, or 13-and-a-half full matches, spread across five different competitions.
There’s one important thing to bear in mind regarding his Chelsea blues, though: all 15 of those attempts came with United, before his goal returns hit truly stratospheric heights. Madrid rarely play the Stamford Bridge mob – usually because at any given point, somewhere in the universe, one of the two teams is facing Barcelona.
1. Francesco Totti vs English clubs
Games: 21, goals: 2
Totti’s goal against Manchester City in September 2014 was his first in England. Almost unbelievably, Totti scored only two goals in 20 games against Premier League opposition, or two in 21 if you include international matches.
Four meetings with Arsenal brought him no goals – only one red card, 20 minutes into a game. Four matches against Manchester United brought Totti no goals, either, although he’ll always have the assist in a 7-1 loss.
Even four meetings with Leeds weren’t enough for him to find the net, despite those thrilling encounters finishing 1-0, 0-0, 0-0 and 0-1. Il Capitano also drew a blank against Chelsea and Liverpool, although he did put a penalty past Newcastle’s Steve Harper at the Stadio Olimpico.
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