Platini: Champions League wide open if Barcelona exit

The Uefa president hailed Juventus' faith in homegrown players, while professing his belief that the Blaugrana will struggle to overcome their two-goal deficit

Uefa president Michel Platini believes that the Champions League will be blown wide open should Barcelona fail to overcome their two-goal deficit against AC Milan this week in their last-16 second leg.

The Rossoneri beat the Blaugrana 2-0 in the first leg at San Siro, and Platini revealed his misgivings about a Catalan comeback while praising Juventus’ rise to prominence over the past 18 months.

"I’ve followed Juve for years, they are very strong, and I like their national identity," he said to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Sometimes they are playing with as many as nine Italians.

"[Juventus legend Gianni Agnelli] would have loved it. In the Champions League, if Barcelona exit, it will be wide open."

The Uefa chief also defended the competition’s formula before reiterating his doubts that the 2011 European champions can recover the last-16 bout.

"I've democratised it. In my day there were teams that played in three finals in a row, but now it’s changing," he added.

"It may even happen that Milan sold [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva and are without [Mario] Balotelli but can beat Barca. It will not be easy to recover the 2-0 loss, even for the Blaugrana."

AC Milan head into the Tuesday night’s clash at Camp Nou on the back of a 2-0 victory at Genoa, while Barca host Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday night with the hope that they can turnaround a poor run of form that has seen them lose three of their last four games.