Juventus manager Maurizio Sarri has laughed off claims from Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp that the Serie A champions are the favourites to win the Champions League this season.
The Bianconeri qualified for the last-16 of the Champions League with relative ease, finishing top of their group unbeaten ahead of Atletico Madrid, dropping just two points in the process.
Their reward was a tie against Group G runners-up Lyon who, on points won, were statistically the worst team Juventus could have been drawn against. Only Atalanta won fewer points in the group stages of those to qualify for the last-16, but could not be drawn against Juventus.
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- The Champions League is set to return with last-16 ties scheduled to be played over the new few weeks.
- Defending champions Liverpool remain in contention, facing Atletico Madrid in the first knockout round.
- Jurgen Klopp downplayed Liverpool‘s chances of winning the trophy, believing Juventus are the favourites.
- The Italian side will face Lyon in the last-16.
- However, Maurizio Sarri believes Klopp was just trying to shift attention away from his own side.
Meanwhile, defending champions Liverpool were handed a draw against Atletico Madrid as reward for topping their group, with many expecting the Reds to reach the quarter-finals given the plight of Diego Simeone’s men.
Liverpool are looking to become just the second team to retain the trophy in the Champions League era, after Real Madrid, and have been dubbed favourites by some given their commanding lead at the top of the Premier League table.
The Reds currently sit 25 points clear of second-placed Manchester City and have lost just twice in all competitions this season. However, when asked about his side’s chances of retaining the Champions League, Klopp was less optimistic, instead labelling Juventus as favourites.
“Juventus were my favourites before the season started but obviously I don’t watch Italian football enough because I cannot work out why they are not 10 points ahead at the top of Serie A,” he told the Guardian.
“They have the biggest squad I have ever seen in my life; quality players too, it’s crazy.
“The Bayern Munich squad is also massive, PSG are incredible when they are all fit, you can never discount Barcelona and let’s not forget Manchester City because the Champions League will be one of their big targets.
“I have no clue how far we can go, but there’s no need to think about it yet because at the moment all we need to concentrate on is Atletico on Tuesday.”
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However, speaking to reporters in the build up to Juventus’ Serie A game against Brescia on Sunday which could see them climb back to the top of the table ahead of Inter Milan’s clash with Lazio, Sarri downplayed Klopp‘s claims.
The former Chelsea boss instead believes Klopp was trying to shift focus away from his own side, while also praising the increased competitiveness of Serie A this season.
Just one point separates the top three with 15 games remaining, while the fight against relegation sees three points between 14th and 18th.
Sarri said: “Jurgen also said that he doesn’t watch much Italian football, so that explains his confusion!
“Jurgen is one of the smartest and funniest people I’ve ever known and what he’s doing here is shaking off the burden of being the favourites.
“Brescia have done far better on their travels than at home, they are not easy to face, especially when they are away. No game is easy at this stage of the season, they don’t exist and the campaign just gets tougher in the second half, as more teams are getting settled into their rhythm.
“We also see mid-table teams no longer just stop playing in the final weeks, which they used to do a few years ago.”