Munich/Madrid - He is a man who will always be linked with Real Madrid CF's glory days either side of the new millennium. He was also a regular winner of the Spanish Primera Division, lifted the FA Cup with Liverpool FC and was crowned French Ligue 1 champion with Olympique de Marseille.

Fernando Morientes, one of the greatest forwards in the history of Spanish football, is now coach of Real's reserve team, and knows as much as anybody about what lies in wait for FC Bayern München in Wednesday's first leg semi-final of the Champions League at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

The 38-year-old spoke exclusively to about the most eagerly-anticipated clash of the season, both in Spain and Germany, if not the world. Fernando Morientes, you faced Bayern several times towards the end of the nineties, coming up against the likes of [Stefan] Effenberg, [Giovane] Elber, [Mehmet] Scholl and [Oliver] Kahn. What are your memories of those battles?

Fernando Morientes: They were always on a knife edge, and I can still remember them vividly. Bayern were a very physical side back then and I can remember my battles with Sammy Kuffour or Thomas Linke. It was always hard to get past them. I can also remember the old Oympiastadion and the fantastic atmosphere the Bayern fans created there to urge their team on. We could feel it as soon as we arrived at the stadium. They were the toughest trips we ever had. You won the Champions League three times and dominated European football. Currently, Real are searching for their tenth European Cup triumph. How strong is the current team compared to the one you played in?

Morientes: They are two completely different teams, even if Real have been so close to the final in recent years. They've just lacked a bit of luck, like last year in the second leg against Borussia Dortmund, and in the penalty shoot-out with Bayern the year before - that could have ended differently too. It's often things like that which take you into a final. The look on [sporting director] Emilio Butragueno's face said it all at the draw. Did you also feel 'that's the last thing we need'?

Morientes: That's the way it is - all three potential opponents are top sides, but Bayern are the team to beat again this year. They are the big favourites. We're talking about the current Bundesliga champions, who have stormed to the title. Of the three teams in the pot, they were definitely the one we wanted to avoid. You've been coaching Real's reserves for the past two years and have therefore been very close to the first team. Do you get the feeling that they are confident ahead of this semi-final? And how is coach Carlo Ancelotti looking?

Morientes: The Estadio Santiago Bernabeu transforms for Champions League matches and the atmosphere's going to be electrifying because Real have been chasing this tenth title for years and the fans are really going to get behind the team and try to lift them. Bayern are going to feel this. Games against Bayern are always special, and the coach and the team know that. Winning the [Spanish] Cup has given us an extra adrenaline rush. It's not very often that Real go into a game as outsiders. Do you think that could be something of a psychological advantage for Real?

Morientes: Of course the favourites are always under greater pressure, but I think the chances are 50/50. Bayern do have a slight edge because they play the second leg at home, but otherwise it's not so easy to say one is the clear favourite. We're talking about two fantastic squads with some of the best players in the world. I'm really looking forward to this game. We'll see if Real can take an advantage into the second leg, or whether Bayern can put one foot in the door of the final. You're also a pundit for Spanish radio station Cadena Cope and have covered plenty of Champions League games for them this season. What has struck you most about following Bayern this year?

Morientes: I'm also a coach so I notice things like the style of play. With Franck Ribery and Arken Robben, they have two players who use the full width of the pitch and the full-backs also push forwards into the midfield. The speed in which they move the ball around is what sets them apart, and then there is their ability to finish moves off, which is why they have scored so many goals. They have so many positives which strike fear into their opponents. Bayern have many top stars, but not one who stands head and shoulders above the rest. Real have Cristiano Ronaldo, yet it's not certain he will be fit. How much would his absence harm Real's chances of progressing?

Morientes: Just imagine what it means to have a player who guarantees you 40 goals per season. You can't contemplate being without him. Still, when he hasn't been able to play, the team have covered well with [Gareth] Bale, [Karim] Benzema or [Angel] Di Maria taking on the responsibility. Losing Ronaldo for the Bayern game would be a real blow, though. He's capable of deciding a game by himself and he's the absolute superstar for Real. When Ronaldo plays, then the opponents have got to change their game to keep him in check. What's going to be decisive in this tie?

Morientes: I think it's going to be decided in midfield; the strong passing game, the runs the teams make. It will be interesting to see how the sides react when they lose possession. It's going to be important to leave little room to the likes of Ribery, Robben, Bale, Di Maria or Cristiano, if he plays. I think the side who can hold possession the longer could have a slight advantage, but it could also be a very tactical game. Real are coached by an Italian, Barcelona and Atletico [de Madrid] by Argentinians. Bayern have Spain's most successful coach since Vicente del Bosque. What is the secret to Pep Guardiola's success?

Morientes: Pep has very distinct ideas about how he wants football to be played, and he never veers from that way. He knows exactly what he has to say to his players while he's also a great motivator. But it's not just about how he explains his philosophy to his players, but how they put it into practice. You can have millions of good ideas as a coach, but if the players don't understand them, or can't deliver, then you're destined to fail. With Pep, you just get the feeling he knows what makes his players tick. Bayern have picked up some bad results recently, particularly in the Bundesliga, including a 3-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund. Could that be dangerous for Bayern?

Morientes: I think this kind of thing happens to all big clubs. Once you've reached your objective for the season, it's only normal that you suffer a bit of a dip, but this is a different situation - this is the semi-final of the Champions League, against Real Madrid. The motivation does not come any bigger. I think we're going to see a great Bayern, and they're bound to be at their best for this game, which means so much to them. Real nearly slipped up against a sensational Dortmund side in the last round with people claiming that they suffer against top opponents…

Morientes: Real come unstuck against top opponents because of the way they commit so many players forwards. That means they can have problems in defence, but I think they have improved recently and have reduced the number of mistakes. Just look at the cup win, and the good results in the league lately. Real are going to have to put in a top-drawer defensive performance, without neglecting their usual attacking game. You've met Guardiola many times, as an opponent in Clasicos and as a team-mate for the national team. What are your memories of him?

Morientes: He was a leader on the field and whenever we played together for Spain, our attacks almost always ran through him. He already had this coaching aura about him in the dressing room. He would talk at length about tactics, moves and situations in the match, nearly always on a one-to-one basis. If I bump into him this week, then I'll definitely greet him because we had a good relationship during our time together with the national team.

Interview by Miguel Gutiérrez