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North v South

Van Buyten doubtful, ‘Rib & Rob’ set to play

The Bayern stars were confronted by something a little different in training on Thursday. In contrast to most previous sessions supervised by Louis van Gaal, the ball played no part in the workout. Instead of shooting and passing practice, Mark van Bommel and Co sweated it out in a series of demanding sprint exercises.

“That doesn’t happen very often with me,” Van Gaal told in an interview after the session. However, there was a special reason for the departure from normal practice: “It was partly to help Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben.” Players who were on the way back from minor injuries tended to recover their fitness and rhythm more quickly with this type of exercise, the 58-year-old explained, “and both trained well.”

“Rib & Rob” therefore look set to feature in Sunday’s showdown at home to Hamburger SV. Indeed, Van Gaal expects both players to be fully fit in time for kick-off. Robben only managed the first half of last weekend’s 1-1 draw in Nürnberg due to exhaustion, and Ribéry sat out the match with a calf problem.

Daniel van Buyten also missed the Nürnberg trip. The big Belgian is jogging again after a brief lay-off with a torn calf muscle, but remains a doubt for the meeting with his former club. “If he takes part in team training on Friday, he could yet feature in the match,” said Van Gaal.

Van Buyten’s state of health is the deciding factor in Diego Contento’s weekend schedule. If the Belgian is declared fit to face Hamburg, Contento wil turn out for Bayern II on Saturday in the third division meeting with VfB Stuttgart II. If not, the 19-year-old is pencilled in for his second Bundesliga appearance. “The most important thing for young guys is to play,” stated Van Gaal. Mehmet Ekici and David Alaba will also be named in the reserve squad for Saturday.