Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola is counting on Frenchman Franck Ribery’s anger to power them past Real Madrid in their Champions League semi-final second leg tonight despite the winger’s recent slump in form.
Ribery had a sparkling season until Bayern clinched the Bundesliga title with seven games to spare.
The team has since looked like a pale shadow of its former scintillating self that broke record after record en route to the league title, with Ribery having lost his spark down the left wing as Bayern have notched just two wins in their past five league games.
“Franck Ribery is extremely important for this club, for the team,” Guardiola said ahead of the second leg following Bayern’s 1-0 defeat in Madrid last week. “He was playing angry against Bremen (in Bayern’s 5-2 win on Saturday). Franck needs this aggression, he needs to play angry.
“He keeps fighting and that is why fans love him. He is one of the best players in Bayern history, he has always performed at the highest level and we need the best Ribery.”
Bayern were again unconvincing for much of the game against Bremen before an explosive second half saw them charge past their opponents with Ribery also on target.
Guardiola, in his first season in charge, is looking to lead Bayern to an unprecedented back-to-back Champions League double, and should they make the final they would equal Juventus’s record of having reached three consecutive finals in this competition (1996-98). They will, however, need to score against a team that last week successfully managed to keep the Bayern attack under complete control despite the Germans’ overwhelming possession.
“I cannot imagine that (Real coach) Carlo Ancelotti will set up his team in such a way as to just keep the result,” said Guardiola. “That would be difficult to maintain. Obviously it is clear what we need to do. We need to score more than one goal.
“Real are a quick team, so we always have to be positioned well when we lose possession. The best is to keep them a long way away from our goal.”
Guardiola refused to speculate on the participation or not of Real’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, with the former twice on target in Saturday’s 4-0 win over Osasuna following a minor knee injury and the Welshman missing that game with flu.
“To me it makes no difference whether Real have Cristiano Ronaldo and Bale available,” the coach said.
Ribery’s team-mate Arjen Robben said they would not be surprised again by a defensive Real formation.
“Real are coming here with a lot of confidence but they also know that nothing is for free here,” said Robben.
“It will not be easy for them. We have to play quickly forward and score but we have to be careful of their counter attacks. We were a bit surprised by how defensive they were in the first leg.
“We are still hungry and we want to make history and reach the final.”
Bale has declared himself fit and ready to play, and the Welshman is expected to feature in the starting line-up alongside Ronaldo.
“I feel good. I’ve had a few days training,” Bale said. “I’m hoping to play tomorrow and looking forward to it. We are ready to give it 100 per cent, our best shot. I don’t feel like we’ve qualified for the final yet.”
Real, eyeing their tenth European crown, will need all their firepower as the Germans plan an all-out assault to score more than one goal against a team that kept them at bay in the first leg and is extremely dangerous on the counter attack.
“We have a slight advantage from the first leg coming here but that is it,” said Ancelotti.
“We know tomorrow’s game is going to be very difficult. We are not that stupid as to think we have already qualified.”