x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Franck Ribery out to impress in second leg against Marseille

The Frenchman failed to impress in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final despite Bayern Munich coming out on top 2-0.

Franck Ribery put in an underwhelming display against Marseille in the first leg of Bayern Munich's Champions League quarter-final tie with them.
Franck Ribery put in an underwhelming display against Marseille in the first leg of Bayern Munich's Champions League quarter-final tie with them.

Franck Ribery is one of the best pieces of business Marseille have ever done.

Recruited from the Turkish side Galatasaray for free in 2005, the gypsy career of the France winger was about to take off. He was 22.

Two years later, Marseille prised nearly €30 million (Dh147m) from Bayern Munich for his signature. Yet Ribery was still jeered during the first leg of Bayern's Champions League quarter-final last week.

Players who leave to further their ambitions always leave a treacherous whiff in their wake in the minds of supporters, even if the club's treasurers are delighted with the budgetary legacy.

Among the theories as to why Ribery had such a poor game in Bayern's comfortable 2-0 win at Marseille is that the shrill element in the home crowd unnerved him.

Ribery said that had not been the case, but hinted instead that what does prey on his mind when playing in France, for France or against French opposition, is what he called "everything in the middle". He meant a hostile and suspicious French media.

Bixente Lizarazu, the former France, Bayern and Marseille full-back and now a pundit, referred to Ribery's indifferent showing on Bayern's left flank seven days ago as "inhibited, because the public weren't behind him".

He had also come up a disciplined, impressive full-back in Marseille's Cesar Azpilicueta.

Azpilicueta, like Jeremy Morel on the other extreme of the Marseille defence, monitoring Bayern's Arjen Robben, have key tasks tonight if Marseille are to sustain any sort of hope of turning the tie around.

Robben and Ribery are a powerful weapon, both influential in steering Bayern two years ago to the Champions League final.

Ribery missed that date with Inter Milan, suspended. He had been sent off for a brutal challenge on Lisandro Lopez in the semi-final against Lyon. Once again, French opposition had brought the worst out of him.

Ribery did not come of the last World Cup with much credit either: none of a France squad who mutinied against their head coach and took one point from three group matches, did.

He had some problems in his private life, that year, which, he recently acknowledged, have left wounds.

Certainly, those around Ribery have noticed that the prankster of old is seen less often.

Ribery was quickly Bayern’s dressing room joker when he joined the club. He is still popular with colleagues and appreciated, not least for his domestic form in the last month, with Bayern making up ground on Borussia Dortmund, the Bundesliga leaders, and scoring freely.

Ribery could use a strong performance tonight to quieten his compatriots' criticism, and to secure Bayern's progress to a probable semi-final against Real Madrid.

He is taking nothing for granted. "If we start thinking about a Madrid match, we will be in danger," he said.

At 2-0 up, complacency could set in, but Ribery has plenty of motive for finding his best form, in front of a sceptical television audience across the border.

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