Having spent four seasons (2007-2011) in the Bundesliga with Gelsenkirchen giants Schalke, Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic knows Bayern Munich's strengths only too well and has tipped Jupp Heynckes' side as "a candidate" to win the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern lifted the Bundesliga twice during Rakitic's time in Germany and in 10 career meetings with the top flight's record champions, the Croatian midfielder has only been on the winning side twice.

The most recent of those occasions came in the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2015, when Rakitic's current employers Barcelona beat Bayern – then managed by Pep Guardiola – by a 3-0 scoreline on home turf en route to lifting the trophy in Berlin.

Watch: Bayern won an unprecedented treble under Heynckes in 2012/13!

While a repeat meeting remains in the realms of the hypothetical as things stand – Barcelona face Chelsea in the Round of 16; Bayern meet Besiktas – if it came to it, Rakitic has admitted he would be wary of meeting the Bavarians, who knocked Barcelona out 7-0 on aggregate under Heynckes in 2012/13.

Indeed, Heynckes has something of a golden touch in the Champions League and in three seasons coaching in the competition (1998, 2012, 2013), he has never failed to reach the final, with Rakitic highlighting the 72-year-old's influence as a reason for Bayern's recent upward curve.

"Bayern are always there or thereabouts and we know Bayern well," Rakitic told German tabloid Bild. "From that point of view, we know that it will be very, very hard [to win the Champions League]. For me, Bayern are always a candidate for the trophy.

"They've been given a fresh lease of life since the new coach took over and from that point of view I wish my old friends who are there all the best. Perhaps we'll meet each other."

Rakitic and Manuel Neuer were on the same side the last time Schalke beat Bayern in the Bundesliga - back in December 2010. © imago / Jan Huebner

Before thoughts turn completely to Europe, Bayern's next domestic obstacle comes in the form of Rakitic's former flame Schalke on Matchday 21. The Royal Blues are flying high this season under new coach Domenico Tedesco and a first league win against Bayern since Rakitic featured in a 2-0 triumph at the Veltins Arena in December 2010 would underline the club's burgeoning European ambitions.

"I'm still in touch with plenty of people in Germany," Rakitic said. "I'm in touch a lot with Gerald Asamoah, Manuel Neuer and other players, those who were with me during my time there. From that point of view, it's always special when I think back to my time there. I always follow what's going on at Schalke."

With Barcelona not in action until Sunday, Rakitic will no doubt be keeping an eye on how the Royal Blues get on at the Allianz Arena on Saturday night - perhaps also hoping for a few tips in case he and the Catalans eventually do meet Bayern in Europe.

Click here for the Bayern vs. Schalke MatchCentre!