Created on 08-02-2008 at 00:00 AM
Friday lunchtime saw the arrival of a vanguard of visiting Werder Bremen fans at the Bayern training ground. Spies from the north? The question uppermost in the minds of Bayern fans is probably shared by Werder coach Thomas Schaaf in the build-up to the north-south encounter on Sunday: Who will replace the injured Franck Ribéry in the Reds’ line-up?
FCB head coach Ottmar Hitzfeld played his cards close to his chest ahead of the game against the Bundesliga title challengers. “I don’t want to talk about individual players at this stage,” he declared, refusing to be drawn on questions of Ribéry’s replacement. “I haven’t decided on my starting eleven yet, there are a number of options.”
Schweinsteiger or Sosa?
The possible alternatives are at least fairly certain, Bastian Schweinsteiger for example. “We’ll see how he plays and where he plays, whether on the left or the right,” was Hitzfeld’s non-committal reply to the question of where the 23-year-old would fit in on his return to the Bayern side after serving a one-match ban against Hansa Rostock last week.
José Sosa is another candidate for the position on the left side of midfield. “We’ll have to wait and see what shape he’s in,” announced Hitzfeld. The Argentine midfielder only returned to training on Friday afternoon after international duty in Los Angeles. Sosa lined up in right midfield against Rostock. “He had a good game,” remarked the Reds coach, who has also played the 22-year-old on the left in recent warm-up games.
Kroos or Podolski?
Toni Kroos, the third possible stand-in for Ribéry, impressed in a number of friendlies during the winter break. Oliver Kahn would not have “any second thoughts” about playing the youngster from the start in the top-of-the-table clash, even though he has only started twice in the Bundesliga to date. “Toni has often shown he has no problems in starting a game,” enthused Kahn.
The fourth contender is also fighting to gain a regular slot, albeit up front. Lukas Podolski has already demonstrated his ability in an attacking role in left midfield. He last filled the position for Germany in Wednesday’s international against Austria (3-0) where he popped up to provide an assist. “Of course I want to play. I always give my best when I play and score goals,” declared Podolski, desperate to win a place in the Bayern line-up.
Excited but calm
That naturally applies to all the stars hoping to fill in for Ribéry. “You can see in training how keen everybody is. Everybody wants to show he deserves more than the subs bench,” reported Miroslav Klose, “whoever plays in that position will be on fire.”
The Bayern camp is refusing to be ruffled by Ribéry’s lay-off. “Franck is, of course, an important player for us. But I believe we’ve got so much talent in our squad that we can still play at the very highest level, even without Franck in the side,” Kahn insisted.
Enough creativity in the team
The Reds captain is in full agreement with coach Hitzfeld. “Of course it’s a loss. It’s impossible to provide a like-for-like replacement for a world-class player like Franck,” declared the head coach, “but we’re strong enough to beat Bremen even without Franck Ribéry.”
Hitzfeld stressed that the team does not rely on Ribéry up front. “Franck is world class in one-on-ones, or one against two. But we do have enough creative players who are comfortable on the ball and have the ability to play deci-sive passes. I have no worries.” The statistics back up the Bayern head coach: Ribéry has missed four games so far and Bayern have not lost any of them (3 wins, 1 draw).