In Brief

Lionel Messi: Juventus and Cristiano Ronaldo now Champions League favourites

Barcelona skipper Messi believes Real Madrid are ‘less strong’ after selling Ronaldo

Lionel Messi says that Barcelona are seeking Champions League glory this season but admits that Juventus are the clear favourites now that they’ve have signed Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Catalans haven’t won the Champions League since 2015. Their La Liga rivals Real Madrid are seeking a fourth trophy in succession. 

Real go into the new campaign without their talisman Ronaldo after selling him to Juve and Messi feels the Madrid giants are weaker for it.

When asked about Real’s decision to sell Ronaldo to Juventus, Messi told Catalunya Radio it had surprised him as he hadn’t imagined Ronaldo would leave Madrid or go to Juventus. “There are many teams who would have liked him,” said Messi.

“Obviously they [Madrid] are one of the best teams in the world, they have great players and squad, but yes the departure of Cristiano makes them less strong.

“It makes Juventus a clear favourite to win the Champions League due to the squad they had before and now with him on top.”

Barcelona have been knocked out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage for the past three years. Last season Barca beat Roma 4-1 in the first leg before losing 3-0 in the second. This meant the Italian side progressed on the away goals rule.

Messi and Barca are now eager to put the setbacks behind them and win the tournament next year. The four-time Champions League winner said: “It is necessary because we have had three years where we have gone out in the quarter-finals and the last was the worst of the lot due to how it happened.

“We are concentrating on this because it is possible – we have a squad where we can fight for this competition.”

Barcelona have been drawn in group B of this season’s Champions League and will play Tottenham, PSV Eindhoven and Inter Milan.

Ronaldo’s Juventus are in group H with Valencia, Young Boys and his former side Manchester United.

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