European football’s premier knockout competition resumes this week five months after it was halted at the last 16 stage because of the coronavirus pandemic.
There are still four last-16 second leg ties to be completed, including Manchester City’s clash with Real Madrid at Etihad Stadium on Friday, before the action then moves to Lisbon for an eight-team knockout tournament, with the quarter-finals and semi-finals taking place over one leg ahead of the final on Sunday August 23.
Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain should be considered the two favourites for this year’s Champions League, according to Arsene Wenger.
City hold a 2-1 lead over Los Blancos after the first leg at Santiago Bernabeu back in February. PSG meanwhile have already secured their place in the last eight as they managed to beat Borussia Dortmund 3-2 on aggregate before the Covid-19 shutdown.
Thomas Tuchel’s side take on surprise package Atalanta at Benfica’s Estadio Da Luz on Wednesday August 12, with the winners facing RB Leipzig or Atletico Madrid in the last four.
The French champions, like Manchester City, have never won the Champions League, with the owners of both clubs desperate to secure the famous trophy as tangible reward for their significant investment.
Wenger, who is currently FIFA’s head of football development, believes both sides should be considered frontrunners for this year’s prize, ahead of the likes of Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.
“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,” Wenger told Europe 1.
Despite tipping them for European glory, Wenger feels the PSG squad is actually weaker than it was a few years ago, though he feels the standard of competition has also dipped in that time.
“I feel they are a little bit less strong than three or four years ago,” he added. “In terms of their holistic set-up, they were maybe a bit more complete three to four years ago, in all positions.
“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.
“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.”