Bayern Munich coach Louis van Gaal insisted on Saturday Dutch star Arjen Robben and France’s Franck Ribery are just as important to the German champions as Lionel Messi and Xavi are to Barcelona.
Robben netted twice as he combined with Ribery to inspire Bayern’s 4-0 win over TSG 1899 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 Hoffenheim 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,” van Gaal said. “They are unbelievably important to Bayern, like Messi and Xavi for Barcelona or Ronaldo and [Mesut] Ozil for Real Madrid. We have waited six months for them to both be fit to play for us together again.”
Bayern’s Germany 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 Germany teammate Thomas Mueller then put the hosts 2-0 up on 15 minutes after a strong run through the Hoffenheim defense 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 a thigh injury which kept him out until last month.
With league leaders Borussia Dortmund drawing 1-1 with Kaiserslautern on Saturday night, 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.
Second-placed Bayer Leverkusen got back to winning ways after last week’s 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 former Germany captain Michael Ballack spent the entire game on the bench as he works his way back to fitness after four months out with injury.
“The fact that Michael Ballack has not played is nothing special for me,” Leverkusen coach Jupp Heynckes said. “I am always wary of doing too much with players who have been injured for a long time.”
The Bundesliga’s bottom side, Borussia Moenchengladbach, took another step toward relegation when they were beaten 3-1 at St Pauli and they had goal-scorer Igor de Camargo sent off for a dangerous tackle after just 21 minutes to compound their misery.
Stumbling VfB Stuttgart also dropped further into the relegation mire when they were humbled 4-1 at Nuremberg.
The 2007 Bundesliga 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 also in the bottom three.
Schalke 04 are up to 10th, as they prepare for their Champions League tie with Valencia in Spain, after they beat SC Freiburg 1-0.
VfL Wolfsburg were beaten 1-0 at home by Hamburg SV as they begin life without former England manager Steve McClaren, who was sacked last Monday, and Wolves remain just one point from the relegation zone.