Bayern banking on 'Robbery' to rescue season

BERLIN - Bayern Munich's hopes of rescuing a disappointing season rest on wingers Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, who could play together for the first time this season when the champions take on Hoffenheim on Saturday.

Bayern have been unable to benefit from the Robben and Ribery double act, which has been dubbed 'Robbery', with Dutchman Robben only recently back from an injury that kept him out for half the season and France international Ribery also returning from a knock.

The loss of their two biggest assets contributed to Bayern's mediocre run this season, which included a shock 3-2 defeat to Cologne last week after they led 2-0 at half-time.

Neither Ribery nor Robben played in that game.

"I feel good. I think it will be ok (for the game against Hoffenheim)," Robben said this week in Munich while most of his team-mates were away on international duty.

Assistant coach Andries Jonker said Robben needed the extra training sessions to be fit in time for Saturday after missing a week of practice with a cold.

With Bayern in fifth place in the league, 15 points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund, any title talk has been cut short in Munich with club bosses demanding at least a second-place finish to secure a Champions League spot.

"It is clear that second place is now our minimum aim," said Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge after the defeat to Cologne. "We cannot risk losing out on Champions League qualification."

The performances of Ribery and Robben will have a major bearing on the future of coach Louis van Gaal, who had a dream first season in charge when Bayern won the domestic double and reached the Champions League final but has repeatedly been at odds with club officials and players.

Van Gaal let captain Mark Van Bommel go to AC Milan during the winter transfer window, much to the dismay of Bayern officials, and has kept striker Miroslav Klose on the bench for several months.

With the last 16 of the Champions League looming later this month, Van Gaal knows a slip-up against Hoffenheim in front of an already exasperated home crowd could sink him and the club deeper into trouble.