Tuesday September 17 2013
Pique: 'Juve among favourites'

Barcelona midfielder Gerard Pique believes Juventus can win the Champions League and Milan “remain complicated rivals.”

The tournament proper kicks off this evening with Copenhagen-Juventus, then Milan host Celtic and Napoli face Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday.

“Juventus will fight for the Champions League, as they are among the group of favourites for the trophy,” Pique told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Last season they were only stopped by Bayern Munich. They have strength in depth, Andrea Pirlo, a great defence, Gianluigi Buffon and with Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente have definitely strengthened in attack.

“Napoli have Rafa Benitez, who is very competitive, and have signed players from Real Madrid who know what the Champions League is all about. In Serie A they started out scoring a lot and play decisively attacking football. They won’t win the Champions League, but they will have a good run.”

Barcelona are in the same group as Milan, Celtic and Ajax, so have been paired with the Rossoneri for the fifth time in three seasons.

“We know each other well,” smiled Pique. “In recent years they haven’t bought as many players because they are not in a great financial moment, but they remain complicated rivals.

“As for Kaka, Milan need a player like him, whereas Real Madrid are full of them. Kaka didn’t play very much and over time that affected his confidence, so I think that’s why he left. He had his best years at Milan and can be reborn there.

“Mario Balotelli? He’s special, in every sense! A very different player with great quality. He really needs to feel he is the star at the centre of a project and I think he has that at Milan, whereas it was tough for him to feel important at Manchester City.

“He was already decisive last season and I hope he can be again this term.”

Pique also cast his eye over some of the other contenders for the Champions League.

“It’s true that with Carlo Ancelotti they are trying to keep the ball more, but Real Madrid haven’t changed their playing style all that much. With those players and now Gareth Bale, it’s natural to win back possession and hit you on the break.

“Bayern Munich are in development and it’ll take a while to become the football machine Pep Guardiola wants, but this year they can win it all again.

“Chelsea? In the Super Cup with Bayern Munich they had their chances, scored when down to 10 men and could’ve won. It’s the pure Jose Mourinho style – not the most entertaining football in the world, but the way he sees it that doesn’t matter as long as you win.”

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