Thursday 23 November 2017

Bayern shield troubled Ribery from spotlight

Franck Ribery. Photo: Getty Images
Franck Ribery. Photo: Getty Images

Mark Ogden

SO much for the adage that preparation is everything.

Bayern Munich face Lyon in tonight's semi-final first leg at the Allianz Arena and the overall victors of the tie will be the team who have dealt best with the disruption that has diverted the attentions of both clubs in the build-up to the game few expected them to contest.

Lyon, preparing for their first European semi-final since losing to Sporting Lisbon in the 1963-64 Cup Winners' Cup, have endured a 700-mile coach trip to Bavaria due to flight restrictions in Europe.

While the French must overcome the physical issues of their road-trip, Bayern's mental strength will be under scrutiny. Coach Louis van Gaal was forced to return to Holland yesterday for his mother's funeral at a time when the club are attempting to shield winger Franck Ribery from the glare of publicity following his implication in a sex scandal in his native France.

Ribery, who is expected to overcome a leg muscle injury to face Claude Puel's team, had been scheduled to face the media in a pre-match press conference yesterday. However, the allegations involving an under-age prostitute led to him being shielded from the spotlight ahead of Bayern's 13th European Cup semi-final.

Bayern defender Daniel van Buyten said: "Franck is doing OK and he is really happy to be playing in the semi-final."

The French Football Federation has insisted that Ribery and Lyon winger Sidney Govou, who has also been called before a judge in Paris as a result of the investigation into the alleged sex scandal, must be presumed innocent at this stage.

Meanwhile, former Manchester City centre-half Daniel Van Buyten has warned that Van Gaal's team cannot take Lyon lightly. "We are not favourites," he said.

"The game is 50-50. We might have beaten Manchester United (in the quarter-finals), but Lyon knocked out Real Madrid in the last 16, so they have proved their strength."

Lyon are aiming to become the first French team to reach the Champions League final since Monaco in 2004.

Monaco were beaten by Jose Mourinho's Porto in the final in Gelsenkirchen that year and Lyon defender Jeremy Toulalan admits the Portuguese side are Lyon's inspiration. "Sometimes a team goes all the way when nobody thinks they can," he said. "Porto did it once. Maybe we'll be next." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Bayern Munich v Lyon

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