On the Ball: Juventus Oman coach picks his Champions League favourites
April 24, 2018 | 6:46 PM
by Times News Service
Juventus Oman football coach Gerald Lami is predicting English side Liverpool will win the Uefa Champions League.

Gerald Lami’s loyalty to Juventus is ironclad. For him, the Bianconeri are – and always will be – the greatest team the world has ever seen (or ever will). And that’s not just because he’s a senior coach at the Juventus Oman Academy.

“Juventus have always been one of the top teams in the world,” recalled Lami, in an exclusive interview with Times of Oman. “I think if you look at the top four to five teams in the world, not just right now, but of all time, you have Real Madrid and Barcelona at the top, and then you have teams such as Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, and Juventus.”

“Juventus are always expected to challenge for the Italian title and are one of the teams that make it to the last stages of the Champions League,” he added. “A lot of the world’s best players play for Juventus and they’ve always succeeded in attracting some of the best players, whether it was Michel Platini in the 1980s, Pavel Nedved and Zinedine Zidane in the 1990s or even someone such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, so that shows you the solidity of the club.”

His beloved Juve, though, will not be in the semifinals of this season’s Uefa Champions League: La Bianconera, after having suffered a chastening defeat at the hands of Real Madrid, who spanked them 3-0 in Italy, but Juve managed to roar back and even the scores at the Santiago Bernabeu in Spain.

The game was seconds away from going to extra-time, when English referee Michael Oliver awarded a penalty for defender Medhi Benatia’s foul on winger Lucas Vasquez.

With so much to play for, Juventus’ legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon lost his head, and launched an explosive verbal tirade at Oliver. It resulted in the veteran being sent off, in what could possibly be his last Champions League game: Buffon pledged to retire from football at the end of this season.

“It’s really sad that a player such as Buffon, who has achieved so much in his career, and for whom the Juventus players probably went the extra mile because he’s been at Juventus for almost all of his playing career, has to go out like this, because he is such a great player and has achieved so much, and you don’t want him to go out like this,” he said.

“He had stayed on for this season, because he knew that it was probably his last chance of winning the Champions League after losing to Real Madrid in last year’s final as well, but with players such as himself, who give everything for the shirt, you never know, because he might just choose to stay on for one more season because the Champions League is the only thing he has not won in his career. He’s won the World Cup with Italy, and he’s won everything else with Juventus,” he added.

“If Buffon were to end his career when this season finishes, we will be seeing him for the last time and it will be a bittersweet moment for him, because he would have wanted to play for Italy at the World Cup in the summer, but the Italians have surprisingly not qualified and he has announced his retirement with the national team,” said Lami. “But if he is staying, then I wonder what backup keeper Wojciech Szczesny will be thinking about because he hasn’t come to Juventus to stay second choice forever.”

Lami predicts English side Liverpool will win the Uefa Champions League. Jurgen Klopp’s team — back in the big time after several years in the doldrums — face Italians AS Roma (who overturned a 4-1 deficit against Barcelona in Rome), while Real Madrid take on German giants Bayern Munich.

“In many ways, Liverpool are the anti-Juventus, because Liverpool are all about fast, attacking football, while Juve have always focused on defence first,” said Lami. “Jurgen Klopp has managed to get the best out of these players and at whichever club he’s been at, he’s always created an atmosphere where the players want to play for him and for the club.”

“We’ve seen him taste success before at Borussia Dortmund and he got them to the Champions League final a few years ago, and I think he can go all the way with Liverpool this time,” concluded Lami. [email protected]

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