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Fears for Ribéry

Hitzfeld's concern at roughhouse tactics

Bayern's scintillating new-look side is prompting admiration and delight throughout Germany, but opposing teams are visibly less overwhelmed by the high-tempo attacking game served up by Franck Ribéry and his team-mates. The Reds' rivals have almost unanimously decided the only way to counter the Bavarians' flowing football is with physical force, an approach which has gone down understandably badly in Munich.

"The trend emerged during the League Cup, where teams went in on us fairly hard," coach Ottmar Hitzfeld commented following his team's 3-0 victory over Hannover 96, before voicing fears for the future: "It'll only get worse, so we'll have to be ready for it."

Fears for Ribéry

Saturday's opponents committed twenty-four "occasionally brutal fouls with no chance of reaching the ball," according to Hitzfeld, prompting referee Thorsten Kinhöfer from Herne to dismiss Altin Lala for a second bookable offence on 45 minutes and hand out five further cautions. "We can also count ourselves lucky that Benjamin Lauth wasn't sent off," Hannover boss Dieter Hecking conceded afterwards.

The General expressed real concern for the wellbeing of his most gifted players, including Ribéry, Zé Roberto and Bastian Schweinsteiger. "I'm a bit worried about what might happen to Franck, he was on the end of a couple of nasty fouls even before the first booking,“ the Bayern supremo admitted, calling on match officials "to keep a close eye on it. Any foul which has nothing to do with a battle for possession must be penalised.“

Constant attention

Ribéry himself spoke of "a couple of aggressive attacks," but refused to over-dramatise the situation. "It happened to me in France as well, but I'll keep doing what I do and not change the way I play,“ the France star declared, saying he would "be on his guard" for roughhouse tackling. The dynamic midfielder noticeably avoided one-on-one situations in the closing stages with the points already in the bag.

"It's never easy when you're top of the pile,“ Hamit Altintop mused. "Opponents will try anything they can to stop you. You've got to live with it, it's part of the job.“ The man Hitzfeld has described as his "aggressive leader", Mark van Bommel, who has barely been penalised for foul play in the first three matches of the campaign, did not feel much was amiss on Saturday: "It might have been a bit harder than normal, but I wouldn't say they overdid the physical stuff.“