Bayern Munich midfielder Xabi Alonso admits it will be strange facing Fran Lampard in a Manchester City shirt in tonight’s Champions League clash at the Etihad Stadium.
The pair were once fierce rivals at Liverpool and Chelsea, with the two Premier League sides meeting for five consecutive seasons in European competition between 2004 and 2009.
During that period, the two clubs faced each other an astonishing 24 times in a sequence of games that took in Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and Community Shield meetings, before Alonso eventually departed for Real Madrid in August 2009.
For added spice, a tackle from Lampard also broke the Spaniard’s ankle in 2005, but he insists that both now share a good relationship, and is looking forward to renewing acquaintances on English shores once again.
"It is going to be strange to play against him and not be playing Chelsea," Alonso told reporters in the pre-match press conference.
“He had a great career for Chelsea and he has been one of the most important players in the Premier League in the last years.
"We can enjoy it. We had competitive games in the league, Champions League, FA Cup, in semi-finals. We have had fewer ties [recently] but we have good relations and I wish him best of luck with his next stage. We are great competitors in football.''
Alonso, who turns 33 today, has been in outstanding form since joining Bayern this summer from Real, with the Bavarian giants top of Group E with a maximum 12 points and qualified for the last-16.
City, meanwhile, could be knocked out of the competition on Tuesday night, having taken just two points from their four games, and Alonso admits he’s surprised the Premier League champions have not fared better considering their resources.
“Obviously City are in a difficult position but they have won the Premier League a couple of times," he said. "I am pretty sure this season they want to show their level and they want to go through.
"They have important players suspended but as a whole it is one of the best squads in Europe. It is hard to tell from the outside but you expect any season that City will make that impact in Europe. So far they haven't done it but I am pretty sure it is not far, that big year in Europe. Season by season they try to improve.
"It looks like a very serious project and competing with the other clubs in Europe is for sure one of their goals. Even though it looks a difficult situation for them, it could change in 90 minutes. We will have to do our job.''