Ballack relishing 2011 return
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Germany star Michael Ballack said he is looking forward to proving his doubters wrong when he returns to top-flight football next month after injuries wrecked his 2010.

An injury to his right ankle while playing for Chelsea during May's FA Cup final at Wembley ruled Ballack out of the FIFA World Cup™.

In his absence, Germany finished third in South Africa by playing an attacking brand of football and barely missed their captain, with Philipp Lahm taking over.

With Germany flying high in their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying campaign after four wins, critics have said he will struggle to win back his place in the national side and the ex-captain is under pressure to prove himself.

I just hope I stay healthy next year, then people will see that I can get back to the level I was at before my injury.
Michael Ballack, Bayer Leverkusen midfielder

Ballack moved back to the Bundesliga after the FIFA World Cup and signed for Bayer Leverkusen, but during only his third game back in September he fractured his left leg just below the knee cap and damaged ligaments.

He has been ruled out until January, when the German league returns after the winter break, and is looking forward to winning back his previous form.

"I just hope I stay healthy next year, then people will see that I can get back to the level I was at before my injury," Ballack told the German media. "We want to play in the Champions League and, of course, I want to be there to help the team."

Ballack will train with the Bayer side again on 3 January and his first game back will be against leaders Borussia Dortmund on 14 January, who have an 11-point lead at the top of the table.

Bayer are second in the table and Ballack says he wants to see how Dortmund's young side copes when the pressure comes on from their title rivals, including defending champions Bayern Munich.

"They have had a good run, but I'm curious to see how these young men deal with potential setbacks," said the midfielder.

Ballack has won 98 caps for Germany, netting 42 goals and has said he wants to return to the national side to lead them to the EURO 2012 finals in the Ukraine and Poland.