Munich – Gerard Houllier led Liverpool FC to UEFA Cup glory in 2001. One of his top performers on their way to beating Deportivo Alaves in a thrilling final in Dortmund was Sami Hyypiä, the man who is now busy preparing Bayer 04 Leverkusen for their UEFA Champions League last-16 tie with Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.

The current Global Sporting Director of Red Bull Soccer and former title-winning coach with Paris spoke exclusively to about Tuesday night's tie and the chances of Hyypiä's men, while discussing who he believes are the real favourites for European glory this season. Monsieur Houllier, how do you think Bayer Leverkusen will fare against Paris Saint-Germain?

Gerard Houllier: It's going to be very, very difficult because Paris have become more mature and stable in recent months. This is a team that can go a long way. Paris were so strong in the autumn – I remember their game against SL Benfica in the group phase and how much that impressed me. However, Paris don't always play to their full potential and sometimes they limit themselves to doing the bare minimum to win. Having said that, Paris can afford to be like this. Bayer have a good team with a great coach who I had as a player at Liverpool, but Paris are simply stronger. Who are your favourites for the Champions League title?

Houllier: The winner of the tie between Manchester City FC and FC Barcelona is definitely going to go a long way. Otherwise, I can see FC Bayern München, Real Madrid CF and Paris Saint-Germain among the title favourites. Can FC Bayern become the first club to defend successfully their Champions League title?

Houllier: Bayern certainly have the potential, bit it's a long way to get there. I really like this latest FC Bayern team. Pep Guardiola's doing a great job. Are FC Bayern even stronger than they were last season?

Houllier: I would say they're just as good. I'm particularly impressed with Thiago Alcantara. He's technically fantastic, he opens the game up excellently and can read the game very well. He rarely misplaces a pass. Even when FC Bayern lost 3-0 to RB Salzburg in January, I thought Thiago was the only one who played well. Above all, he's an intelligent player. Could Arsenal FC be a threat to Bayern in the last 16?

Houllier: It may be possible, but I don't think so because Arsenal have a few problems right now. It's also tough to survive the second leg in the Allianz Arena. It's extremely difficult to win there, even if Arsenal did that last year and are one of the few clubs who have beaten Bayern. That's not something that happens often. Can Borussia Dortmund repeat their feat in reaching the final again?

Houllier: I don't think so because BVB have too many players out injured and their squad simple isn't big enough to cope. It's going to be hard enough against Zenit Saint Petersburg, but Borussia are at home in the second leg and, with their fantastic support there, it's not easy to beat them. And FC Schalke 04 against Real Madrid – could there be a big surprise there?

Houllier: Who knows? Particularly when you consider that Madrid have won only once on German soil. But Real are particularly strong and they are better than Schalke in every department so I don't believe the Royal Blues have much chance of causing an upset. Does playing home or away first make a difference in the knockout stages?

Houllier: Definitely. If you get a good result in the first leg, like a 3-0, then you're practically through, but history also tells us that it's preferable to play in front of your own fans first, like FC Bayern last season – they went through in Turin and in Barcelona, not at home.

Interview by Alexis Menuge