Bundesliga Focus – Judging the outcome

Bayern Munich started the 2009/10 campaign endeavouring to reclaim their position as Germany’s number one team. As the final hurdles approach, Louis van Gaal’s side look favourites to land their 22nd league title, sitting proudly at the Bundesliga summit – albeit level on points with Schalke – and with two league games left to play and an advantageous Champions League semi-final, the Bavarian forecast appears to be pleasing.

Amidst the promising outlook the Allianz Arena has been hit with the news that Franck Ribery has been summoned into court to answer allegations of a sex scandal involving an underage prostitute. The overall negative view of Ribery’s performances this season have now been coupled with the controversial scandal and could result in a Munich sans-Ribery next season. The dichotomy of Ribery ranges from supreme talent to rash behaviour and temper tantrums, fluctuating erratically between the two. A player clearly capable of turning a game, the French midfielder has, for the majority of the season, lived in the shadow of fellow winger Arjen Robben. When both men’s football align the results are breathtaking, and the duo’s combinations has earned them the ‘Robbery’ moniker by the Munch faithful – as they rob the ball off the opposing team and counter-attack with typical German efficiency.

Yet for all the hype surrounding Ribery, a large majority of it justified, the winger’s unpredictable performances have been below par this season and the limelight in the latter stages has fallen to the duo’s other half, Robben. Last weekend’s demolition of Hannover saw Robben net a hat-trick and make an assist, overshadowing the former Marseille player. It has been a tough week for the Frenchman – prostitution scandals and middling performances have mired the headlines. Ribery’s dismissal against Lyon in midweek incurred more frustration and Robben took the plaudits, now Bayern wait cautiously on UEFA to make a decision on the red card which could change so much in the team and next season’s starting line ups.

Ribery’s lawyer released a statement: “My client was called as a witness, but had no other part to play in this matter. The matter stops there.” Ribery’s legal representative is clearly seeking closure on the matter but with three games left to play in the league, including seemingly easy trips to Borussia Monchengladbach and Hertha Berlin, van Gaal will plot his options to seal the title in convincing manner should the winger be detained. During a World Cup year and with him hitting a footballer’s peak age, Ribery will shudder at the prospect of three years in prison if found guilty of any charges.

Van Gaal’s team are still capable of winning the treble but with captain Mark van Bommel sidelined and Schalke breathing down Bayern’s necks, a judge’s outcome on the allegations and UEFA’s decision on the red card will have Munich fans and their No 7 biting their nails. Schalke beat rock bottom Hertha Berlin this weekend and disciplinarian coach Felix Magath will be doing all he can to overtake former club Bayern and land the Bundesliga title. Last season Wolfsburg showed the rest of Germany that Bayern’s dominance can be convincingly broken and, Munich’s imperious form considered, anything is possible in football. Having lost the advantage of a two-point lead, the title is Bayern Munich’s to lose but they cannot afford to rely on Robben both domestically and in Europe. With everything surrounding their wizard Ribery, they must concentrate or risk Schalke breaking their ubiquitous presence across Germany.

The possibility of Munich failing to reclaim their spot on the German throne will see the giants go without the league title two years running- something which has not happened since Dortmund’s mid-90s dominance. The results of Ribery’s exploits off the field and tempestuous behaviour on it could see Munich without the midfielder next season, his position usurped by Robben, a possible prison sentence or the current season leaving a bad taste in his mouth, the reasons and results remain to be seen. With external events transpiring tentatively, the Allianz Arena has been shaken but not quite stirred.

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