Bayern Munich coach Louis van Gaal insisted today that Netherlands' Arjen Robben and France's Franck Ribery are just as important to the German champions as Lionel Messi and Xavi are to Barcelona.
Dutch star Robben netted twice as he combined with Ribery to inspire Bayern's 4-0 win over Hoffenheim at Munich's Allianz Arena which moved Bayern up to third in the Bundesliga. Flying Dutchman Robben and midfield maestro Ribery - dubbed 'Robbery' by the German media - tore Hofffenheim to pieces and van Gaal insists the pair are Bayern's answer to Argentina's Messi and Spain's Xavi.
"With Robben and Ribery, we have far more creativity," said van Gaal. "They are unbelievably important to Bayern, like Messi and Xavi for Barcelona or Ronaldo and (Mesut) Ozil for Real Madird. We have waited six months for them to both be fit to play for us together again."
Bayern's German international striker Mario Gomez opened the scoring with his 17th league goal of the season as he brushed off last week's knee injury to convert his chance after just two minutes having been set up by Robben. His German team-mate Thomas Mueller then put the hosts 2-0 up on 15 minutes after a strong run through the Hoffenheim defence by Ribery.
Robben then turned from goal-provider to goal-scorer when he netted twice in the second-half to give him four goals from four games after only recently coming back from the thigh injury which kept him out until January this season.
With league leaders Dortmund drawing 1-1 with Kaiserslautern tonight, Bayern's win leaves them 13 points from the top while Dortmund's lead at the top of the table has been cut to 10 points. A last-minute Jan Moravek goal was enough to cancel out Sven Bender's 82nd minute opener, making it back-to-back draws for table-toppers.
Leverkusen keep chase
Second-placed Leverkusen got back to winning ways after last week's defeat shock defeat at mid-table Nuremberg when they won 3-0 at Eintracht Frankfurt. Midfielder Simon Rolfes, Brazil's Renato Augusto and Hanno Balitsch scored the goal as ex-Germany captain Michael Ballack spent the entire game on the bench as he worked his way back to fitness after four months out with injury.
"The fact that Michael Ballack has not played is nothing special for me," explained Leverkusen coach Jupp Heynckes. "I am always wary of doing too much with players who have been injured for a long time."
Bottom side Borussia Moenchengladbach took another step towards relegation when they were beaten 3-1 at St Pauli and had goal-scorer Igor de Camargo sent off for a dangerous tackle after just 21 minutes to compound their misery. Stumbling Stuttgart also dropped further into the relegation mire when they were humbled 4-1 at Nuremberg.
The 2007 German league champions could not repeat last week's miraculous 3-2 win at 'Gladbach, when they came from 2-0 down. Bruno Labbadia's side have won just five games all season and are three points from safety with Cologne, who play fourth-placed Mainz on tomorrow, also in the bottom three.
Schalke are up to 10th, as they prepare for next week's UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie with Valencia in Spain, after they beat Freiburg 1-0. Wolfsburg were beaten 1-0 at home by Hamburg as they begin life without ex-England manager Steve McClaren, who was sacked on Monday, and Wolves remain just one point from the relegation zone.