Barcelona captain and talismanic forward Lionel Messi has named his top five favourites to win the 2019/2020 UEFA Champions League and further predicts it would be ‘weird’ for a big club like Manchester City to miss out in the competition through UEFA ban.
Of course, Messi’s number one favourites to win this season’s title is Barcelona. He is looking to win his fifth Champions League title this time around following the disappointment of the last two editions, but he is aware that four other strong sides are good enough too to win it.
Barcelona were knocked out in the quarterfinals in 2018 by Roma, then bowed to eventual champions Liverpool in the semifinal of last season’s edition.
Messi and company will travel next week to face Napoli in the first leg of their last-16 clash as they strive to end their Champions League title drought since 2015.
In Messi’s assessment, it’s champions Liverpool, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid who can stand in Barcelona’s way this season.
“All [the teams] are complicated and difficult. Paris went to play Dortmund and lost, Liverpool went to Atletico’s field and lost, but I think, like that and everything, Liverpool, Juventus, Paris and Madrid are the strongest today,” Messi told a wide-Mundo Deportivo.
Messi still sees Liverpool as a strong defending champions notwithstanding the Jurgen Klopp’s side’s 1-0 defeat to home side, Atletico Madrid, in the first leg of their last-16 clash.
“On the day of the draw we talked in the locker room that would be very close because Atletico competes a lot in this competition,” Messi said.
“In two-match duels they are very strong and they showed it again, that they will compete and they will be there.”
Meanwhile, Messi has spared some thoughts for Premier League side Manchester City who have been banned by UEFA for ‘serious Breaches’ of Financial Fair Play regulations.
City who were found guilty of overstating their sponsorship revenues between 2012 and 2016 have claimed innocence and intend appealing the sanction meted to them by UEFA at the Court of Arbitration for Sports.
Man City will serve a two-year ban from the Champions League should they lose the appeal at CAS. And it is their possible absence from the prestigious competition that attracts Messi’s sympathy.
“It is surprising because nobody thought that such a thing could happen, so powerful,” Messi told Mundo Deportivo.
“Paris [Saint-Germain) paid a fine or I don’t know how it went. If in the end City does not play in the Champions League for what it is,
with the players, the club, and the money it spends, it will be weird.”
Messi added: “If City do not enter the Champions League there are many players that may look for an exit, or maybe not.
“The Champions League is very attractive so two years without playing, it can be screwed.”