Jupp Heynckes believes Clasico heavyweights Barcelona and Real Madrid are the favourites for Champions League glory along with Paris Saint-Germain, and is keen to avoid comparisons between his current crop at Bayern Munich and the 2013 treble winners.
Bayern entertain Turkish champions Besiktas in the first leg of their last16 tie on Tuesday, and Heynckes expects the usual suspects to be in contention come the final reckoning while he has also been impressed by the performances of the Premier League contingent.
Madrid claimed a 3-1 win over PSG at Santiago Bernabeu last week to place the reigning champions firmly in control of their tie but Bayern’s veteran head coach is not ruling out the big-spending Ligue 1 leaders just yet as he reviews the sides most likely to taste success.
“Predicting things in advance is very difficult, there are many big clubs in the competition with a long tradition,” Heynckes told a pre-match news conference.
“There are five teams in England that are very strong, some invested enormously in the summer and also in the winter.
“Real Madrid, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain are the favourites and, of course, we want to continue our tradition.
“Bayern have always been quite successful in European competition, but the competition is not a wish concert, you always have to be fit. Any opponent can be a stumbling block.”
Heynckes certainly holds Besiktas – who topped a group featuring Porto, RB Leipzig and last season’s semi-finalists Monaco – and their similarly experienced coach Senol Gunes in high regard.
“After the draw the sense in the media was that was a good draw,” he said. “I have studied Besiktas in detail and not only do they have many players who previously played in the Spanish league at Madrid, Barca or Valencia, but they also have two Dutch national team players.
“This is a team peppered with international experience. The secret of their success lies in their coach. He’s not quite my age, but he’s already 65. He’s a very experienced man, an absolutely top coach who knows how to put the team together.”
That the 72-year-old Heynckes, also a Champions League winner with Madrid in 1998, knows how to construct a winning side is beyond doubt.
He bowed out of his previous spell in charge of Bayern with a historic treble triumph five years ago and, with a commanding lead established at the top of the Bundesliga and a place in the DFB-Pokal semi-finals secured, talk of a repeat is becoming unavoidable.
“I do not like comparisons that much,” Heynckes added. “Each team has its own inner life.
“We believe in us until the last second. That’s a very positive sign. The creed of Bayern has always been to never give up, always on, always higher, always more successful.
“That’s why we’re so successful in the league and throughout history.”