Football

Arsene Wenger tips Man City, PSG for Champions League glory

Ex-Arsenal manager ranks them top in a Champions League declining in quality

There will be a new Champions League winner this season, if former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger's predictions are anything to go by.

The 70-year-old Frenchman has tipped Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain as the favourites to lift the trophy when European football's premier knockout competition resumes this Saturday morning (Singapore time).

Pep Guardiola's side will host Real Madrid in the return leg of their last-16 clash, with City leading 2-1 following the suspension of the Champions League in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Other last-16 ties yet to be completed include Juventus-Lyon (0-1), Barcelona-Napoli (1-1) and Bayern Munich-Chelsea (3-0).

PSG, Atalanta, Atletico Madrid and RB Leipzig have already secured their place in the quarter-finals, which would be played as single-leg knockout ties, as would the remaining stages, in Lisbon.

While City and PSG may not have won the Champions League before, their owners, in the hunt for European glory, have made huge investments to improve the pedigree of their squads, which Wenger believes makes them front runners for the title.

"When you are playing a match against Atalanta or Atletico, anything can happen. But, for me, Manchester City and PSG are the two favourites in terms of their potential," Wenger told Europe 1.

Despite backing PSG, Fifa's head of football development acknowledged that the Ligue 1 champions are actually weaker than they were a few years ago.

That said, he also noted there has been a "general decline" in the quality of the competition.

"They are a little bit less strong than three or four years ago, when they were maybe a bit more complete in all positions," Wenger said.

"The competition was stronger as well. 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 teams in Europe."

Real defender Eder Militao will be hoping to prove Wenger wrong. He warned City that his side will emerge victorious at the Etihad.

The 22-year-old Brazilian is expected to replace suspended captain Sergio Ramos, and is eager to show he has what it takes to step into Ramos' boots.

"Real fans, we won't have our captain against City, but I will be there. I will play a good game, trust me. We will come out victorious," Militao told AS.

"I have to put my heart and soul out there, it's my big chance to prove that I can be trusted in tough games. I hope it can be an unbelievable game."

However, former Man City defender Nedum Onuoha said Real will not have it easy at an empty Etihad, where Guardiola's men have won all six games since the restart, with an aggregate score of 24-1.

In fact, Onuoha believes the absence of fans could lift the pressure off City.

"The one thing I've seen from City since the restart... they play with more freedom because they are not judged by the people," Onuoha told MEN Sport.

"As a consequence, they have scored a lot of goals... They are playing some of the best football I have ever seen.

"It also helps City if they have a bad start to the game as they don't feel the anxiety from the crowd and that can be a big thing in some way, especially in a situation which is so high pressure."

Football