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Ribery determined to remind Marseille what they're missing

Europe's form team continue their Champions League campaign this evening, resuming their march to a dream night at the Allianz Arena in May. No, not so much Barcelona -- good as they are -- and their quest to be the first team to retain the European Cup since 1990. But Bayern Munich; unambiguously the best non-Spanish side left in the last eight, probably Europe's finest team beyond the big two, and almost certainly the continent's red-hot team.

Jupp Heynckes' side have been on a remarkable run, responding to accusations that their season was drifting beyond their control with three furious displays, yielding 20 goals in total, playing football that would grace and maybe even win a Clasico. Marseilles beware.

The run started with a home Bundesliga game against Hoffenheim on March 10, which they won 7-1. Three days later Basle came to the Allianz Arena, with Bayern worried after losing the first leg, but were slashed to pieces, beaten by a 7-0 scoreline that almost felt like an understatement.

Next up was a 6-0 win at Hertha Berlin, before two rather more modest wins, one of them on penalties.

It may sound surprising, but immediately before this goalfest Heynckes was under pressure. Bayern had slipped seven points behind the Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund and had lost their Champions League first leg in Switzerland. The fans were worried and speculation had begun.

"We sorted things out together," explained France international Franck Ribery, looking back on his team's transformation. "There were lots of discussions.

"Bayern are a huge club and as soon as we don't win one or two matches, there's lots of pressure from outside. It got to the stage where we started to feel a bit of stress inside the club as well, which disturbed us a bit.

"But we were able to react and rediscover our form from the first half of the season. We're playing like a team again. We attack and defend together."

Arjen Robben and Ribery hit form while German striker Mario Gomez started hitting the net and it's those three players, along with the brilliant young German Thomas Muller who lit up the 2010 World Cup, that make up a forward line combining variety with exceptional high quality. Gomez is at the vanguard and scored eight of their famous 20-goal burst. Robben, who plays from the right, scored seven.

As Manchester United might agree after he knocked them out of the Champions League quarter-final two years ago, Robben, when fit, is arguably second only to Cristiano Ronaldo as the world's best wide player. And his recent improvement, after a poor spell, has been as important to Bayern's sudden charge as anything else.

Robben and Ribery frequently swap sides and while the Dutchman is the man in form, tonight's game might mean more to Ribery than anyone else.

The match is in Marseille, where Ribery used to play and he is keen to remind French media what he can do.

"It irritates me," he said of coverage he receives in his home country. "It should not happen like that, they get carried away. It should be as it is in Munich. In Germany, I'm happy, I'm having the time of my life."

Their 2010 Champions League final might have come too soon for this Bayern team. They were beaten 2-0 by Jose Mourinho's Internazionale but it was only Robben and Gomez's first seasons at the club. Now they are fully settled with their core of younger German players: Muller, defender Jerome Boateng and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

They also have the wonderful Bastian Schweinsteiger -- the team's leader -- although he may not play tonight as he has an ankle injury that limited him to substitute appearances in two of their large wins. He has not started a game since early February. Bayern's earlier struggles had been blamed on his absence. Arsene Wenger recently explained a surprise defeat for the national side with the words: "Germany cannot play without Schweinsteiger."

But clubs as healthy as Bayern Munich rejuvenate themselves, and 22-year-old Toni Kroos has impressed in Schweinsteiger's absence, scoring three in the last four games. Beat Marseilles and Real will probably await in the semis and then possibly Barcelona in the final. It's a tough ask but with Robben, Ribery, Muller and Gomez in their current form, they could just be celebrating a home win on 19 May.

Marseille v Bayern Munich,

Live, Sky Sports 2, Setanta Ire, 7.45

Irish Independent