Ribery wins, a manageable UCL draw and the Super Cup

Posted by Susie Schaaf

After Bayern Munich was handed a manageable draw for the Champions League group stages, Franck Ribery took Player of the Year honors; beating out Lionel Messi and an absent Cristiano Ronaldo in Monaco. Meanwhile, the squad got in a late practice in Prague for tomorrow's Super Cup match against Chelsea.

In a somewhat hilarious UEFA presentation, where no guest host except for Michael Owen could get the balls unscrewed, Bayern in Pot 1 drew a very manageable group D: CSKA Moscow, Manchester City and Viktoria Plzen.

- Marcotti: Ribery an obvious recipient of award
- Brewin: UCL group-by-group analysis

Russian champions Moscow may prove to be the trickiest of the away matches, while Plzen should be an entertaining train ride for Munich support. And Bayern once again will meet up with Martin Demichelis and his flowing locks, a new addition to Manchester City. I highly doubt Munich will fail to make the elimination rounds out of this group.

While Ribery's stats don't add up to the La Liga duo of Ronaldo and Messi, and some may argue that he wasn't even the best player on Bayern's treble winning squad, it was "now or never"-- the Frenchman would tell L'Equipe -- for him to collect the trophy.

After joining Bayern from Marseille for the 2007-08 season, Ribery would quickly win hearts in the Bavarian capital. But, with the hiring of Louis van Gaal, his mood quickly changed as the two notoriously butted heads. Adding to that misery was his suspension from the Champions League 2010 final, an underage prostitution scandal, and a Les Blues World Cup shambles -- it looked to all like Ribery would not stay in a Bayern kit for long.

Along came Jupp Heynckes who sorted him out. In a very moving letter on kicker.de from Heynckes to Ribery, the former Bayern coach praised the winger, saying: "You wanted success for the entire team and your great individual skills always contributed in the overall success. [...] You have reached this personal triumph for the success of the collective, and for your unselfish attitude you have been rewarded."

"This is a very special moment for me and I'm delighted. I want to thank my team-mates, all the people at FC Bayern, the fans, and my wife and children. We had a fantastic season," Ribery said after accepting the award.

He joins legends Gerd Mueller, Franz Beckenbauer and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge as Bayern's European Players of the Year for his work rate, dribbling brilliance and willingness to be a team player on the best team in Europe last year.

In Prague, Bayern Munich had late practice for Friday's Super Cup match, and were probably the last to know who they'd be facing in defense of their Champions League title. There will be hope for Bayern supporters everywhere as pictures circulated of Bastian Schweinsteiger smiling and training during the session; not to mention relieving a possible selection headache for Pep Guardiola.

After a 1-1 draw with Freiburg mid-week -- Guardiola perhaps gambling on that starting eleven -- this Bayern squad is now looking to put the Super Cup match, and Chelsea, to rest. The heartbreak of the 2012 Champions League final is gone. Indeed it was used as a great motivator for the following season, as Munich won everything in spectacular, mind-boggling fashion. But, the hurt still lingers on as the players are highly motivated to beat the Europa League champions.

Of course, that's not the only story line as it's also another match for old rivals Jose Mourinho and Guardiola. The former peeved during the pre-match presser when a reporter had the audacity to bring up his record against Bayern's current coach.

"It's not about me and Pep," he said. "It's about Chelsea and Bayern Munich. It's about a Super Cup where the European champions are playing the Europa League champions. Pep is not a European champion, and I'm not the Europa League champion. We're just coaching these teams. It's not about us. It's about Chelsea and Bayern."

Perhaps, one day, both coaches will actually believe that.


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