By Hassan Talib Haji
In an exclusive interview with Goal.com, Olaf Thon assesses the chances of the German sides in this year's Champions League. He favours his former club Schalke and Bayern Munich to advance to the knockout stages but fears that the challenge may be too difficult for Jurgen Klopp's German champions, who were drawn in the so-called Group of Death.
Thon was a UEFA Cup winner with Schalke in 1997, scoring in the penalty shootout final victory over Inter, and is confident of the Gelsenkirchen side's chances in group B alongside Arsenal, Olympiakos and Montpellier.
"Montpellier last year caused a sensation in France, but they should be beatable. Olympiakos is also an opponent you can leave behind. The strongest opponents are of course Arsenal, with Podolski, who has moved there recently. At the moment he still has some difficulties to grasp a foothold there, but his quality speaks for itself and he will succeed there. For me, Arsenal and Schalke will progress. "
However, The Professor, who accumulated over 50 caps for the German national team, rued the luck of Schalke's fierce rivals Borussia Dortmund, who face Real Madrid, Manchester City and Ajax in group D.
"This is certainly the most difficult group. It was obvious, however, that Dortmund would get a tough group, as they were only in pot four. Dortmund have really not had any luck. Although the group sounds insurmountable, I still believe they can be a surprise. I think for most people, Dortmund is an outsider, but I daresay that Dortmund could challenge for second behind Real Madrid or Manchester City."
But Thon is extremely confident that Bayern Munich will advance to the knockout stages and believes they are a strong contender for the final in Wembley. He has also expressed his delight at the big-money signing of Javi Martinez from Spanish outfit Athletic Bilbao.
"That to me is the easiest group. Bayern Munich will march through easily. Especially with the new acquisition Javi Martinez. Bayern desperately needed someone like him for the midfield, he can also play in central defence. That's one of the reasons why Bayern will progress and for me personally, again, they are a very big favourite for the final."