- Alonso is preparing for his ninth Champions League semi-final.
- The Bayern midfielder has warned that Atletico have a strong defence and attack.
- He says Pep Guardiola has taught him a lot.
With a DFB Cup final berth secure and just a few more points needed to wrap up the Bundesliga title, FC Bayern München's attention is slowly starting to turn to their third objective this season: the UEFA Champions League.
They face 2014 beaten finalists Club Atletico de Madrid over two legs for a place in the Milan final, and bundesliga.com caught up with Bayern's Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso to discuss the upcoming tie.
bundesliga.com: Xabi Alonso, Bayern München are regarded as favourites by many people to beat Atletico in the Champions League semi-finals...
Xabi Alonso: There's no such thing as favourites in a Champions League semi-final.
bundesliga.com: You say that because Atletico have knocked out FC Barcelona, the title holders?
Alonso: I could do, but even if Atletico had knocked out any other top team, I would still think the same. This just goes to show that Atletico are a really top club.
bundesliga.com: The atmosphere inside the Estadio Vicente Calderon is legendary. Not many know about that more than you do, having played there so often already...
Alonso: Pep Guardiola knows the atmosphere there at least as well, but all I can say is that we're prepared for the atmosphere we can expect there.
bundesliga.com: Is it an advantage that Bayern play the first game away and then the return at home?
Alonso: I don't know if that will be a big factor in the end. Of course conceding goals in the first leg can be a big factor psychologically, but then you've always got to remember that you've got a second part to the tie – the return leg.
"I really hope that I can lift the trophy in the air for the third time in my career with a third club"
bundesliga.com: What does this semi-final mean to you personally?
Alonso: It's going to be my ninth Champions League semi-final and I really hope that I can lift the trophy in the air for the third time in my career with a third club. But like everybody here, I desperately want to reach the final.
bundesliga.com: Atletico's biggest strength is their defence, with many claiming they have the best backline in Europe...
Alonso: That's always hard to say at this level, when there are so many top teams involved in this competition. Of course one of Atletico's strengths is the good defensive work they do, but they've not made it to the semi-finals just by defending well and we've got to watch out for their attack too.
bundesliga.com: You mean veteran striker Fernando Torres?
Alonso: I don't only mean him, but all the others too. Certainly Fernando Torres is a pretty special striker who has a wealth of experience and can therefore be particularly dangerous for us. He's an idol at Atletico and he's at home there, and he shows that when he's out on the field.
"We've got to keep cool heads and not have any fear of the atmosphere there"
bundesliga.com: We've spoken about the special atmosphere at the Estadio Vicente Calderon, but their passionate coach Diego Simeone adds a further dimension too, doesn't he?
Alonso: He's all about passion, and he brings that across in every situation. His passion is contagious and impressive, but we've got to keep our cool and not have any fear of the atmosphere there.
bundesliga.com: What legacy will Pep Guardiola leave behind when he leaves Bayern at the end of the season?
Alonso: A very big one, starting with the numerous minor things that we the players have learnt from him. When a team succeeds in playing different systems, then that's a sign of quality. I have no doubt he'll leave a great legacy behind. I personally have got even better under him, and maybe that's because I play in the positions Pep also used to play in. He helps me a lot and we often talk about how this position can be interpreted.
bundesliga.com: That means some of Guardiola's work will remain for years to come?
Alonso: Pep's ahead of his time. Control of the game and of the ball are decisive words. That's the best way to win games. Guardiola has defined a philosophy and laid foundations that will help Bayern in the future. It's also about having a squad which is armed for the present and the future, in order to be able to deliver consistently good performances. We're in pretty good shape now and for the future.
bundesliga.com: Young fans in particular like to see strikers scoring lots of goals, but how do you see your job within the team?
Alonso: The team comes first, no matter who scores the goals. I see myself as the link between defence and attack. I'm more a player who tries to read the game and helps my team-mates get even better and get the very best out of them. It's all about small decisions which can have a big impact and determine the pace of the game, which we need at any given time. That's a job I like a lot, even if the younger fans tend to favour the strikers.
Interview by Oliver Trust