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Robben races back

Ribéry fears long spell on the sidelines

Bayern superstar Arjen Robben has defied the odds with a much faster than expected recovery from surgery, and is likely to return to the matchday squad for Saturday’s Bundesliga trip to Freiburg. The Dutch winger went under the surgeon’s knife to repair an inflammation of the knee just two weeks ago. “Robben’s recovered unbelievably quickly,” Louis van Gaal reported on Thursday.

Robben completed an arduous fitness training session on Wednesday. “If there’s no reaction, he’ll start on the bench at least,” Van Gaal continued. Robben injured the knee in the Champions League meeting with Juventus and was sent for surgery immediately afterwards. At the time, the striker was expected to be sidelined for three to four weeks.

Concern over Ribéry

Thursday brought less positive news of Franck Ribéry, Robben’s counterpart on the left flank. The France star is out of contention for an indefinite period, Van Gaal announced. “I’ve brought him on as a sub and I’ve started with him, but the injury’s always flared up again afterwards. We’ve agreed he needs to rid himself of the injury completely before we start working with him again,” the coach said.

Since the start of pre-season in July, Ribéry has been troubled by a persistent and painful inflammation affecting a tendon attached to the left kneecap. After a first attempt at a comeback as a substitute against Werder Bremen on Matchday 2, the Frenchman sat out the following week’s trip to Mainz, before another substitute appearance in the 3-0 victory over Wolfsburg. Ribéry started the most recent match at home to Köln, but had to come off at the interval.

“Franck also needs to build up his physique. The muscles in his injured leg are less well developed than those in the good one,” explained Van Gaal, “and that’s not good. It means the physical demands on his body are unbalanced. It’s very hard to work with tendon problems.” The medical unit would now need to devise the right blend of treatment and sports rehab exercise, the coach summarised.