Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has picked out Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain as his two favourites to lift the Champions League trophy this season.
Europe’s premier competition had to be put on hold back in March due to the coronavirus crisis but will restart over the coming days, with Juventus entertaining Lyon (Agg 0-1) and Manchester City playing host to Real Madrid (Agg 2-1) on Friday night.
The remaining round of 16 games take place the following evening as Napoli travel to Barcelona (Agg 1-1) and Bayern Munich (Agg 0-3) look to defend their lead at home to Chelsea.
PSG, Atalanta, Atletico Madrid and Leipzig have already secured their place in the quarter-finals which will be played out as single-leg knockout ties in Lisbon from August 12-15.
Asked to predict this year’s winner, Wenger told Europe 1: ‘When you are playing a match against Atalanta or Atletico Madrid, anything can happen.
‘But for me, Manchester City and PSG are the two favourites in terms of their potential.
‘Aside from that, honestly, PSG, I feel they are a little bit less strong than 3 or 4 years ago.’
The Frenchman believes the quality of European football has suffered a ‘general decline’ over the last few years which has created a golden opportunity for the Ligue 1 champions.
‘In terms of their holistic setup, PSG were maybe a bit more complete 3 to 4 years ago, in all positions,’ Wenger said.
‘The competition was stronger as well.
‘But I think that there has been a general decline in the quality of European football at the very, very, very highest level and they are still amongst the two or three best in Europe.’
He continued: ‘We shouldn’t be looking for false reasons why PSG have not yet won the Champions’ League.
‘Even Real Madrid didn’t win it sometimes during 10 to 15 years, then they won it three times in a row.’
Kylian Mbappe is a doubt for PSG’s clash with Atalanta after sustaining an ankle injury in last week’s Coupe de France final victory over Saint-Etienne but Wenger is confident the forward will feature.
‘I saw what happened to him. I think that he will play, and I think that he is also convinced of that,’ the ex-Arsenal boss, now FIFA’s Head of Football Development, added.
‘Something tells me, and I am used to watching athletes at the highest level when they are really very badly injured.
‘I think there is a sense of confidence, watching him closely.
‘I am practically certain that he will play against Atalanta. For Mbappe, I believe enormously so.’
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