Munich - Former French international Bixente Lizarazu has featured ten times for FC Bayern München against Real Madrid between 2000 and 2004, coming out on top in six of them, including in the last four of the 2000-01 UEFA Champions League, the year in which the Reds won their fourth European Cup.

Just as he did in his playing days, the 44-year-old is now gearing up for the latest clash of two of Europe's powerhouses in this season's semi-final first leg on Wednesday, and the World Cup and European Championship winner believes the Bavarians hold an ever-so-slight advantage going into their colossal clash, as he explained in an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com...

bundesliga.com: Bixente Lizarazu, what type of game can fans look forward to when Real Madrid host FC Bayern in the Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday?

Bixente Lizarazu: Personally I’m really looking forward to this game, it’s going to be a spectacular one for sure. Both teams always look to attack and games between these two clubs are always full-blooded, competitive encounters. For me it’s the European Clasico . It’s really the true final between the two big favourites to lift the trophy this year, the crème de la crème of European football.

bundesliga.com: When you played for FC Bayern, you came up against Real Madrid several times. What memories do you have of those encounters?

Lizarazu: They were always very fast-paced games with a lot of tackles flying in, but they were the best matches I played in because there was such a huge rivalry between the clubs. And playing away in the Bernabeu with its incredible atmosphere is something very special.

bundesliga.com: Is there a favourite in these two games?

Lizarazu: In my opinion, Bayern are the slight favourites, but it will be an extremely tight affair right up until the final minute of the second leg. I’m a big fan of Real’s front three of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, though. They’re almost unstoppable, and when they kick into gear, it’s like they’re running at 3,000 km per hour. All three of them have a telepathic understanding with each other and Bayern need to be extremely careful in possession. Every time they lose it, the ball could be heading towards their goal very quickly.

bundesliga.com: Borussia Dortmund exposed some weakness in the Real Madrid team when they beat them in the quarter-final second leg. Are Carlo Ancelotti’s men vulnerable?

Lizarazu: I think it’s best to forget that game. Real Madrid had a terrible day and that can happen to any team, even Bayern, like we saw when they lost to Borussia Dortmund recently. For me, Real don’t have any weaknesses. In defence, they’re solid and very aggressive with Pepe and Sergio Ramos in the middle, they have lots of experience in midfield - especially Xabi Alonso - and then you have the three guys up front. The only question is, how fit will Ronaldo be and can he play to his full potential. It’s quite possible that he won’t be at 100 per cent and that could be a problem for Real.

bundesliga.com: Since winning their 24th national title, FC Bayern’s level of performance seems to have dropped. Do you share that opinion?

Lizarazu: I thought they were average in the quarter-finals against Manchester United and poor against Dortmund in the league, but that won’t mean anything here. They’d rather hit a rough patch now than when they play Real Madrid; a mediocre display in the first leg and the tie will be over. If Bayern want to reach the final, they need to put in two fantastic performances, but when I was at the club, we always got ourselves mentally revved up to do that, even when our form in the league might have been up and down. I fully expect that to be the case this time because every player at the club will be thinking of nothing but winning. It’s a good thing for the players or coach to give it to each other straight when they’re performing poorly; it would be worse if nobody spoke up at all. This team has a lot of character, though, and I think that's a massive plus.

bundesliga.com: Where will the game, and the tie, be won and lost?

Lizarazu: It depends on how Bayern cope against Real Madrid’s attack. They will have more possession and that can be a weapon to control the game but also a way of defending, although the defence need to play with maximum concentration and not take any risks on the ball. Real don’t need to see much of the ball to be dangerous, but to me this Bayern side looks like the more mature group of players at this level, and I think that might be decisive.

Interview by Alexis Menuge