Munich - It’s almost 15 years since FC Bayern München lost 2-1 to Manchester United FC in one of the most memorable UEFA Champions League finals in recent history. Mario Basler scored the opening goal that day, his sixth minute free-kick giving Ottmar Hitzeld’s team an early lead, before two stoppage time goals broke Bayern’s hearts in Barcelona.
The two European giants meet again on Tuesday evening in the quarter-final first leg of this season’s competition and Basler, who made 78 appearances for the Bavarians between 1996 and 1999, winning two league titles and one DFB Cup, told bundesliga.com he is confident his former side can get the better of the English record titleholders this time around.
bundesliga.com: Mario Basler, you lost the 1999 Champions League final to Manchester United with Bayern. What are your memories of that match? In a sense, was it both the best and worst game of your career?
Mario Basler: It definitely wasn’t the worst – it was the best game. Even though we lost, it was one of the best experiences of my career. I was delighted to be a part of it and enjoyed the occasion despite the defeat.
bundesliga.com: The two teams meet again in Manchester on Tuesday. How much are you looking forward to the game?
Basler: Manchester United vs. Bayern München is a great match-up with a lot of history, but I think the result will be more clear-cut in favour of Bayern this year. I’m expecting them to win.
bundesliga.com: Could United still pose a threat to Bayern on account of the fact that they’re some way off the pace in the Premier League, allowing them to focus all their attention on the Champions League?
Basler: Manchester United are always a dangerous opponent. Every team that reaches the quarter-final is dangerous, but Bayern are still the clear favourites for me, even though United’s squad is strong.
bundesliga.com: What do Bayern need to watch out for against United?
Basler: Bayern will focus on their own game. A lot will depend on the form of the two teams on the day, but I don’t think Bayern will lose to United, not by any stretch of the imagination.
bundesliga.com: Is there any risk of Bayern underestimating United?
Basler: Not at all. Bayern are so consistent and don’t underestimate any opponent. They just focus on their own strengths.
bundesliga.com: You played at Old Trafford yourself. What’s the atmosphere like inside the stadium?
Basler: There’s always a good atmosphere in England, but it won’t be anything out of the ordinary. Bayern won’t be overawed or scared, and the atmosphere alone won’t be much help to United.
bundesliga.com: Which other teams could pose a threat to Bayern in the Champions League?
Basler: Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Barcelona in particular. Along with Bayern, they are my favourites to reach the final.
bundesliga.com: Not Chelsea?
Basler: You can't rule out Chelsea either – Bayern have had a few problems against them in the past. The same goes for Borussia Dortmund. All the quarter-finalists have a chance, but I’d say Manchester United are the underdogs.
bundesliga.com: In the other quarter-final involving a German side, Borussia Dortmund play Real Madrid in a repeat of last season’s semi-final. BVB managed to win that one – how do you rate their chances this year and have Real become stronger?
Basler: I think Real are favourites, but the same goes for this one: If Dortmund get a good result in the first leg, anything is possible.
bundesliga.com: Bayern clinched their 24th national league title on Matchday 27 and have dominated the Bundesliga this term. Would you say Bayern’s dominance is down to the strength of their squad, or the shortcomings of Bayern’s rivals?
Basler: Seeing as Borussia Dortmund have lost seven matches this season, it’s partly down to the weaknesses of their rivals. Bayern have an outstanding team and win all their games, while the others are lagging behind. If you lose seven matches and draw several other games – like Dortmund did against Schalke recently – Bayern will dominate because they win the majority of theirs. I don’t think they’re going to lose many more this season. They will maintain their level of performance and finish the season strongly.
bundesliga.com: Germany coach Joachim Löw said recently that Bayern’s season is only just beginning…
Basler: He’s right. The Champions League really starts getting serious at the quarter-final stage. I think Bayern are capable of winning the treble again.
Interview by Tobias Gonscherowski