Sunday April 5 2020
Zico: 'Atalanta for Champions League!'

Brazilian legend Zico believes Atletico Madrid and Atalanta could be the Champions League favourites this season, while he admires Maurizio Sarri’s style of football.

The game has ground to a halt during the coronavirus pandemic and UEFA President Aleksandar Ceferin said it’s possible they could complete the Champions League in a Final Eight series of one-off matches.

“A month ago, I’d have said Liverpool were the favourites to win the Champions League, but they dropped in form too quickly and were eliminated,” Zico told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Now Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid are among the candidates, because when you beat the reigning champions, it means you can go all the way with extra belief. I believe Manchester City and Pep Guardiola are the best.

“Among the Italians, I’d say Atalanta. They play fantastic football, have a very strong collective and I can see them reaching the Final. Beating them is very difficult and Manchester City realised that, too.”

Juventus have to overturn a 1-0 first leg defeat to Olympique Lyonnais, but Zico is impressed with Sarri.

“The coaches I like nowadays are Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Sarri, who play a more attacking game, trying to score goals and sign players of real quality. Others win in different ways and I respect them regardless. Sometimes a coach can change and suddenly the same players don’t work together as well.”

Zico is no stranger to Serie A, having played for Udinese from 1983-85, but the Friulani have fallen on hard times.

“Unfortunately, Udinese aren’t interested in building a competitive squad now. The owners are focused entirely on Watford and English football, so they don’t invest anymore. It’s just become a breeding ground for young players to be sold on.”