Bayern in the pink as Ribery magic rubs off

BERLIN - With Franck Ribery's form finally starting to rub off on the forwards, the mood at Bayern Munich could not be better as they prepare for back-to-back games against their only two rivals for the title.

Bayern will follow up Saturday's trip to second-placed Bayer Leverkusen with a home game against surprise leaders Hoffenheim next weekend and what had looked a daunting prospect now seems a good opportunity for the champions.

The change is down largely to Ribery, the French playmaker with the pink boots who has inspired an eight-match unbeaten run in the Bundesliga, while helping the club clinch a place in the last 16 of the Champions League with a match to spare.

Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose are improving at last, with the two centre-forwards contributing six goals between them in the last two games.

"Franck Ribery, Miroslav Klose and I make a fantastic trio," Toni told reporters after Tuesday's 3-0 win over Steaua Bucharest.

"We've built up a great understanding. That's the secret here at Bayern. It's going well, and everything's worked out for us in the group. It's really enjoyable at the moment."

Leverkusen, who are ahead of Bayern on goal difference, have been enjoying themselves for most of the season but they showed the first real signs of frailty when they lost 2-1 at Arminia Bielefeld last weekend.


They had Sascha Dum sent off in that game and the midfielder will serve a one-match ban on Saturday.

Hoffenheim, of course, will be hoping for a favour from Leverkusen.

Germany's richest village team are at home to Bielefeld on Saturday and if results go their way they could take a six-point lead before their summit meeting with Bayern.

Hoffenheim's astonishing debut season has been fuelled by striker Vedad Ibisevic, who has 16 goals to his credit already.

"They make it easy for me," Ibisevic said of his team mates this week. "I have a lot of confidence at the moment."

While Bayern are looking ahead to the knockout phase of the Champions League and a battle for the Bundesliga title, Werder Bremen's season is in danger of petering out before the halfway stage.

Their 2-2 draw away to Anorthosis Famagusta on Wednesday means they are out of the Champions League running.

They are doing badly in the Bundesliga too, already 11 points behind the leaders in ninth place.

They will attempt to start a revival with a game at home to Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.