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Van Gaal: Ribery still needs time

Two days before the event itself, it is already clear that Saturday 30 January 2010 will be a historic day for the Allianz Arena in Munich. Bayern’s magnificent home ground will host its 100th capacity crowd for a match featuring Germany’s most successful club. The Bundesliga clash with Mainz will be FCB’s 120th game at the unique stadium in the north of the Bavarian capital.

The vast majority of the 69,000 spectators – the average attendance for Bayern games since the official opening in May 2005 is 66,294 – will be hoping for thrills and goals from the home team. They may also see at least a half and possibly a start from Franck Ribéry, who finally returned to the matchday squad last weekend after a lengthy injury lay-off. But will the France superstar be on the pitch for kick-off on Saturday? Louis van Gaal left the matter open in his comments to the media on Thursday.

“I don’t think he’s fit. He still needs time,” the Munich head coach warned, although he did not categorically rule out the winger featuring in the starting line-up. “I wouldn’t say that,” the Dutch boss commented. The coach recognises the progress made by the player. “He’s managed another full week of training.”

Van Gaal favours winning team

Ribery has also been amassing match practice too. He enjoyed a 22-minute run-out against Bremen last weekend, and completed an hour of the friendly against Ingolstadt last Wednesday. “I’m not yet at 100 percent,” the Frenchman himself declared after the midweek match, although he confirmed there had been no reaction from his left knee, the problem zone which forced him to the sidelines before Christmas. “That’s the most important thing,” he said confidently.

Ribéry expressed hopes of playing “at least a half” against promoted Mainz. However, Van Gaal’s further remarks seemed to suggest another appearance on the bench for Franck. “We need players who are fit and in form,” the coach stated, strongly hinting at keeping the faith with his current first-choice team. “If we keep winning and playing like that, I’m not keen to make changes,” he observed.