Champions League: Tough to predict favourites, says Rivaldo

“As we know, the Champions League is a very tough competition in which we normally can't determine who the favourites are due to each team's high qualities,” said Rivaldo.

Brazil great Rivaldo   -  Getty Images

The latter stages of this season's Champions League to be played as a mini-tournament in Lisbon could throw up some surprises, according to former Barcelona forward Rivaldo.

Europe's flagship club competition was left in limbo in March by the COVID-19 pandemic but action resumes later on Friday with the first of the delayed last-16 ties.

The quarterfinals, which will be decided over one leg rather than the usual two, will begin in Lisbon next Wednesday when Atalanta takes on Paris St Germain.

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Leipzig faces Atletico Madrid the following day with the other two last-eight ties taking place next Friday and Saturday.

“As we know, the Champions League is a very tough competition in which we normally can't determine who the favourites are due to each team's high qualities,” said Rivaldo.

“Then if we add the special conditions of this season then it becomes even tougher.

“Teams arriving at the matches with different competitiveness levels, matches without fans in the stands, single matches from quarter finals, all this contributes to preventing me from seeing who the clear favourites are.”

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Real Madrid faces a tough task to reach the last eight as it tries to overturn a 2-1 deficit against Manchester City on Friday while Barcelona and Juventus are by no means certain to be involved in the unique format.

Barcelona is 1-1 with Napoli ahead of Saturday's last 16, second-leg tie at the Nou Camp while Juventus hosts Olympique Lyonnais later on Friday trailing 0-1 from the first leg.

Even if all the big guns make it through to the quarterfinals, the one-legged nature of the ties means there will be no margin for error, says Rivaldo who won the Champions League with Milan in 2003.

“It will be a totally different environment this time,” he said. “One bad day could send them out of the competition. There will be no second leg to correct potential setbacks.”