Bixente Lizarazu: “In the end, one big team will be out of the competition and it will be a pity for that team to be out.” (Photo courtesy of FC Bayern Munich)
By Michael Lewis
Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid doesn’t deserve to be a quarterfinal in the UEFA Champions League, says Bixente Lizarazu.
Wednesday’s clash between the two European powers looks more like a final than anything else, the former French international contended.
“To tell you the truth, the quarterfinal looks like a final,” Lizarazu said Saturday. “Real Madrid and Bayern are favorites with Barcelona. “You also have Juventus and Juventus will be a difficult opponent. In these two quarterfinals, you have four teams that … [could deserve] to be in the final. It’s how it is. It’s the Champions League and you have to accept.”
FS2 will televise the match at 2:45 p.m. ET.
In Tuesday’s other quarterfinal, Juventus hosts Barcelona and Borussia welcomes Monaco. On Wednesday, Leicester City visits Atletico Madrid.
“In the end, one big team will be out of the competition and it will be a pity for that team to be out,” Lizarazu said. They are all with big quality, offensive quality, big defensive talent.”
Coming off Saturday’s 4-1 demolition of Borussia Dortmund and Christian Pulisic at Allianz Arena, Bayern could be the best of the bunch. The Bundesliga leaders have been among the hottest Euro teams since the turn of the year as they extended their league lead to 10 points.
“Bayern has been improving since January,” Lizarazu said. “Maybe the first six months they were not so good, but now they are really in very good shape. And for Real Madrid, they continue to be good. They reached the title in the Spanish League. They are still in the Champions League. Real Madrid against Bayern is like a classico in the Champions League in the matchup of those teams.”
Lizarazu, a former Bayern player who is now an ambassador for the German club, watched the team’s victory over Dortmund with 300 fans to watch the German Klassiker at the Upper 90 Soccer Center in Queens.
He was impressed with his former team’s performance and the turnout.
“Bayern was really no doubt the best team on the field,” Lizarazu said, adding that Arjen “Robben was playing fantastically. [Robert] Lewandowski and [Franck] Ribery. So the talent and experience was too big to have any problem against Dortmund.”
You might say the result was a victory for the aged. Ribery, who turned 34, on Friday, and Robben scored goals. Captain Philipp Lahm is 34.
“You know when to stop when you don’t play so good,” Lizarazu said. “You don’t have to think too much. If you play great it is fantastic.”
Being successful as thirtysomething players is all about “taking care of your body,” the French World Cup champion said.
“You have players who are playing good at 36- or 37-years-old and player who can’t play good after 30 years old. … In the next two years we have to find a new direction of players because they will not play 10 years more, those players.”
At Upper 90, the game and the fans made for a loud and enthusiastic setting.
“To have the feeling here with the fans was great,” Lizarazu said. “It was the first experience for me outside Germany to be here in New York to see that there are fans here in New York. We watched the match together. There was a lot of noise during the match, during the goals. It was really, really fun. Usually I’m usually in Germany or in France and you look like you are very far from everything.”
A month ago, Lizarazu was in China for a similar function with Bayern fans halfway around the world. Let’s face it, the top Euro clubs are trying to maximize their brand around the globe.
“Everything is changing,” he said. “The football clubs, the biggest football brands, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, they are thinking global. So, they have to be in China, they have to be in Indonesia. They have to be in America, South America. It’s changing a lot.
“You have to build these relationships. It’s totally new for me because my time was not like that. It’s interesting because … there are no football clubs like these clubs. When there are the biggest games in the Champions League, everybody is watching in the world. Like when you are playing the World Cup, everybody is watching that. in China, they are new to football. They want to organize the World Cup and they want to be fans of the top clubs of the world. It’s the new football building.”