As a seemingly unstoppable Bayern Munich prepares to take on underdog Marseille in the Champions League quarterfinals Wednesday, one-time Marseille star Franck Ribery remains unsure of how he will be received by former fans.
AP - Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery hopes the Marseille fans will remember the good times when he goes back to the club that launched his career for Wednesday’s first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals.
Ribery’s last game for Marseille was five years ago, and the winger gave the fans who adored him something to remember by driving a tractor around Stade Velodrome after the match, with Samir Nasri in the passenger seat.
“I think what I did with the tractor was awesome,” Ribery said Tuesday. “People loved me in Marseille because I gave everything, and they always expected me to do something with the ball. It gave me confidence, it made me want to try things.
“When the team loses, (Marseille) fans don’t even want to eat, they don’t feel good.”
Given Ribery’s recent form for free-scoring Bayern, which has netted 22 goals in the last five games, Ribery may well end up upsetting them on Wednesday night.
“I don’t think the fans will be chanting ‘Ribery, Ribery’ for 90 minutes,” said Ribery, who played for Marseille from 2005-07. “Marseille is a city that loves football. Marseille is in a difficult position in the league, but it will want to do something against us for the fans.”
Ribery has already matched his career-best tally of 11 league goals this season, and has set up many more for striker Mario Gomez and fellow winger Arjen Robben.
“If I’m lucky enough to score I won’t celebrate my goal and run around everywhere. I have a lot of respect for the club, for the people here,” Ribery said. “They know my mentality, I have the same mentality as people here. I like giving my best, giving everything. I don’t know how it will be inside the stadium, but I hope I get a good reception.”
Marseille could do with Ribery having an off night, however.
Out of form and missing key players, Marseille is in the worst possible shape.
It recently set a dismal club record with seven straight defeats and has scored a meager five goals in eight games, faces Bayern without its best goalkeeper and first-choice center half, and with top scorer Loic Remy trying to shake off a thigh injury.
In sharp contrast to Marseille’s slump, Bayern has been tearing opponents apart thanks to its mesmerizing three-pronged attack.
“I wouldn’t say it would be a miracle (to beat Bayern), but they are a candidate to win the Champions League,” Marseille coach Didier Deschamps said on Tuesday. “They’re in great form, which wasn’t really the case with Inter Milan (in the previous round). Bayern always enter a competition with the intention of winning it, which isn’t really the case for us.”
Deschamps will wait until Wednesday morning to decide whether Remy can play.
“I hope so but I can’t be sure,” Deschamps said.
Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes said Marseille, despite its troubles in the league, has proven its pedigree in Europe this season.
“We’ve seen what Marseille can do, they’ve had some good results,” Heynckes said. “They finished first in their group ahead of (Bundesliga leader Borussia) Dortmund and they beat Inter Milan. We can’t take them lightly.”
Marseille ended its losing streak with a 1-1 draw at Nice on Saturday, but lost defender Souleymane Diawara for the rest of the season because of a knee injury. Deschamps must also cope without suspended goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.
His absence couldn’t come at a worse time.
In the previous round, the France No. 2’s inspirational shot-stopping against Inter at the San Siro kept Marseille in the competition. But with quarterfinal qualification assured, he gave away a penalty in the final seconds and got sent off.
Deschamps said it was difficult choosing between Gennaro Bracigliano, who spilled an easy cross in last week’s French Cup quarterfinal loss to semiprofessional Quevilly, and Elinton Andrade, who hasn’t played since January 2011.
“It will be Andrade tomorrow, but I won’t say why,” Deschamps said. “I stand by my choice.”
Andrade may have nightmares about Robben, Gomez and Ribery. With the kind of service Gomez gets, it’s little wonder he’s scored 10 goals in the competition – including four when Bayern destroyed FC Basel 7-0 in the previous round to record the biggest winning margin in the knockout rounds.
“You either mark the man, or cut off the service to him. I think it’s best if he has the least service possible,” Deschamps said of dealing with Gomez. “The least ammunition he gets, the less danger there will be.”
Marseille, sitting ninth in the French league, will most likely need to win the Champions League to play in it next season.
Date created : 2012-03-28