As a seven-time Bundesliga champion, three-time DFB Cup winner and one of only five head coaches to have gone the distance with two different clubs in the UEFA Champions League, there is nothing Bundesliga coaching legend Ottmar Hitzfeld does not know about football.
Hitzfeld steered Borussia Dortmund to two Bundesliga titles and FC Bayern München to a further five, plus three DFB Cup victories. He is one of only five coaches to have won then UEFA Champions League with two different clubs – BVB in 1997 and Bayern four years later.
In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, the retired great discussed last weekend's stalemate in an absorbing Klassiker between two of his former clubs, FC Bayern's treble chances and Thomas Tuchel's impact at Dortmund.
bundesliga.com: Ottmar Hitzfeld, after their head-to-head in the Bundesliga, Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern now both face tough assignments in the European arena. How do you think they'll fare?
Ottmar Hitzfeld: I count Dortmund among the favourites to win the Europa League. They've got their hands full with Tottenham in the last 16 but they've show already in the Bundesliga that they can dominate, and beat, other top teams. If they can get past Spurs, BVB have every chance of going all the way to the title.
bundesliga.com: Bayern München also look to be well-placed heading into their Round of 16 return meeting with Juventus..?
Hitzfeld: Before the game in Turin, Bayern would doubtless have been more than happy to come away with a two-all draw. But after having been two-up, with the chance to make it 3-0, I wouldn't say the situation was optimal for them. A 1-0 win would see Juventus through and now, they believe they have a chance again. They know they're capable of absorbing Bayern's pressure and can try to hit them on the break. The final result was a shot in the arm for Juve.
bundesliga.com: Do you think Bayern have a real chance of winning the Champions League again?
Hitzfeld: It would be great, of course, if Bayern could make the final again. But it becomes that bit harder if they find themselves up against Real Madrid or Barcelona along the way. Those are two sides Bayern tend to have trouble with. But if they do get to the final in Milan, where they won it 15 years ago, that'll be a good omen in itself. And winning the treble would certainly be a glorious note for Pep Guardiola to bow out on as coach.
bundesliga.com: Thomas Tuchel, by contrast, has just started in the job at Dortmund. Are you surprised at how quickly he's taken BVB back to the top?
Hitzfeld: Dortmund have landed on their feet with the signing of Thomas Tuchel. He's reshaped the team and given them a new identity. It's not just flat-out football all the time, there's a greater variety to their game now. They're more energy-efficient, but still capable of switching upfield at speed. Tuchel has given his players a more expansive style and he's popular with the fans, as well. He's a highly intelligent coach and Dortmund's remarkably good season so far is down in large part to him.