The last 16, first-leg ties in this season’s UEFA Champions League have already produced some cracking encounters, including Barcelona's 2-1 loss away to Arsenal, AC Milan's 1-0 defeat at home to Tottenham Hotspur, and Lyon's fightback to draw 1-1 with Real Madrid, but there is a match-up tonight which arguably overshadows the lot.
In a re-run of last year's final, holders Inter Milan welcome German champions Bayern Munich to the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza. I Nerazzurri won 2-0 when the sides met in Madrid last May, so there is no escaping the Bavarian desire for revenge this evening.
One man who will take a deeper interest than most in the encounter is Andreas Brehme, given that he is one of a select group, including Jurgen Klinsmann, Lothar Matthaus and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who played for both clubs.
"Inter haven’t pushed on as a team since the final," the legendary left-back told FIFA.com. "It's obviously difficult when you’ve won every trophy you contested in a given season, and I would say the same for Bayern."
Last season’s final at Estadio Bernabeu was the latest instalment in a long-running series of interactions between the two famous clubs. German internationals have long been prized in Italy, and especially by Inter, where the successful triumvirate of Brehme, Matthaus and Klinsmann played together in the early 1990s.
"In 1989, my first season, it was just Lothar and me," recalled Brehme. "Playing with your international team-mates was certainly a bit special. I’d appeared with Lothar for the U-21s, for Bayern and for the senior Germany side. The fans and the media were very nice to us. What they did for us was incredible, especially in the first season when we won the league."
Klinsmann arrived a year later to complete a three-man German delegation, and the trio’s spell in Milan brought more silverware. Guided by the legendary Giovanni Trapattoni, who would later take the reins at Bayern, Inter lifted the UEFA Cup in 1991, ending a 26-year wait for European honours.
"It was magnificent!" enthused Brehme. "Italian football was as good as it got in Europe at the time and we were just proud to be playing there. The stadiums were always packed. Every match was a sell-out and the atmosphere was unique. We had a wonderful time. I’d do it all over again if I could."
The admiration for players from the other side of the Alps is mutual, as Bayern retain equally fond memories of their handful of Italian stars. Trapattoni is still a folk hero in the Bavarian capital for his unique blend of charm and a fiery temperament, and strikers Ruggiero Rizzitelli and Luca Toni both succeeded in rising to cult status in Munich. Others such as Massimo Oddo also spent short spells in Bayern colours.
This year's showdown between the two teams takes place at an earlier stage in the Champions League. "Bayern are in confident mood after two convincing wins in the league," said Brehme. "They’ll need to be aggressive, because they have a chance of taking something from the game in Milan. Inter will have to attack, and that should suit Bayern, although Munich will have to watch themselves in defence, where they’ve wobbled a lot recently."
The former star feels Inter’s versatility is their main strength: "Every Inter player is capable of scoring, and that’s dangerous for Bayern," warned Brehme. "You could argue that’s also the case for Bayern, although their star performers right now are Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Mario Gomez."
For Brehme, Matthaus and Klinsmann, this is anything but a normal European fixture. "It's very special to me personally," said Matthaus ahead of the 2010 final. "I played the best football of my career in Milan, but I can’t help supporting Bayern."
Now, Brehme appears equally torn between two former loves: "At the end of the day, I’m German, so I’m 51 per cent for Bayern and 49 per cent for Inter. My bet is a 1-1 draw, although I don’t think either of them will go on and win the competition. Other teams will make the running this season."