Ribery motivated to play larger role for Bayern

SPORTS NETWORK

, Last Updated: 3:48 PM ET

MUNICH, Germany - Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga title last season with star winger Franck Ribery starting less than a third of the games, and the Frenchman is motivated to play a larger role this season.

Bayern opens the 2010-11 Bundesliga season Friday at the Allianz Arena against Wolfsburg, and Ribery will play a crucial role with Arjen Robben sidelined for up to two months with a torn muscle in his thigh.

"I want this to be a great season," Ribery said on Bayern's website, "because last season was a tough one for me."

"I want to have a big season. I'm motivated."

Although Ribery was limited last season, he also helped Bayern reach the final of the Champions League, a 2-0 loss to Italy's Inter Milan that Ribery watched from the stands due to suspension.

Ribery erased doubts about his future, mostly the speculation of a transfer to Real Madrid, by signing a five-year extension with Bayern this summer. Now, he wants to move past other problems, including an underage prostitute scandal in France, and lead Bayern to another successful season.

Bayern also won the DFB Cup to complete a domestic double in Louis van Gaal's first season in charge, and the pieces are in place for a stronger season. In addition to a healthy Ribery, young German international Toni Kroos returns to Bayern following a loan stint at Bayer Leverkusen.

Van Gaal will also have to navigate the opener without Ivica Olic, a hero last year in the Champions League, but he can turn to German veteran Miroslav Klose and Kroos to fill in for Olic and Robben.

Bayern was quiet in the transfer market, but Brazilian Breno, Argentinean Jose Sosa, German Andreas Ottl and Dutchman Edson Braafheid also return from loans, and give Van Gaal more options.

Wolfsburg disappointed last season by finishing eighth, but ex-England manager Steve McClaren strengthened the squad's biggest weakness with the additions of Denmark's Simon Kjaer and Germany's Arne Friedrich in central defense.

McClaren led Twente to its first Dutch Eredivisie title last season, but will find the Bundesliga a little tougher. Edin Dzeko has been rumored to be on his way out of Wolfsburg, but if he remains, the Wolves should be very strong.

On Saturday, Werder Bremen will start its Bundesliga season after a strong win in Champions League qualifying over Sampdoria, 3-1, on Wednesday. Bremen sold German international Mesut Ozil to Real Madrid on Tuesday, but should still be in the title mix this season.

Bremen plays Hoffenheim on Saturday, when last year's runner-up, Schalke, also starts the season against fellow title contender Hamburg.

Schalke lost 18-goal scorer Kevin Kuranyi and German defender Heiko Westermann but acquired Spain legend Raul from Real Madrid to fill the void in attack and German Christoph Metzelder from Real to plug the hole in defense.

Westermann switched to Hamburg, but coach Armin Veh had to replace German left back Jerome Boateng following his transfer to Manchester City.

In Saturday's other openers, Monchengladbach hosts Nurnberg, Hannover hosts Frankfurt, Cologne hosts promoted Kaiserslautern, and Freiburg hosts promoted St. Pauli.

On Sunday, Michael Ballack will mark his return to the Bundesliga when Bayer Leverkusen visits Borussia Dortmund. Ballack played his last match for Chelsea in May, when he suffered an ankle injury that kept him out of the World Cup.

Ballack played for Leverkusen from 1999-02, helping the club to the Champions League final in 2002, and at Bayern from 2002-06 before joining Chelsea.

Mainz hosts Stuttgart, which lost Sami Khedira this offseason to Real Madrid, in Sunday's other match.


Videos

Photos