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The 63-year-old believes the Italian champions are a strong team that can do "great things" and should not be considered a surprise package in Europe this season

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insists Juventus should be considered contenders for this season's Champions League and says Italian clubs have caught up with the rest of Europe.

The Old Lady were relegated to Serie B in 2006 for their part in the Calciopoli scandal, but have since returned to the top of Italian football – winning the Scudetto for the past two seasons.

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Antonio Conte's men also made it to quarter-final of last season's Champions League, where they were defeated 4-0 by eventual winners Bayern Munich, but Wenger expects them to be stronger this term.

"Whoever puts Juventus among the possible surprises for the next Champions League is wrong, because Juve is not a surprise, but a strong team, which has come back to the top after a few years," Wenger told Corriere dello Sport.

"Juve can do great things, also I think the distance between the top clubs in Europe and the Italian teams has closed."

Arsenal will take on a new-look Napoli in the group stage of the competition as Wenger will pit his wits against former Chelsea and Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez, but the Arsenal boss says he has not discussed the difficult group with the Spaniard.

"Our relationship is good and Napoli is a very formidable opponent just like Borussia Dortmund and Marseille," Wenger added.

"I haven't talked with Benitez about it, but we both know it is a very balanced group."

Wenger also paid tribute to former Arsenal forward Gervinho, who left the club this summer to join up with his former Lille manager Rudi Garcia at Roma.

"Gervinho is a great player and I hope he proves it in Italy with Roma," he continued.

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