Naharnet

Bayern Keen for Robben's Return

With Arjen Robben set to return from injury, Bayern Munich officials can't wait for the Bundesliga and Champions League to resume after Germany's winter break.

Robben hasn't played since the Netherlands' World Cup final loss to Spain because of a hamstring injury, but is back in training at a camp in Qatar and is expected to play in the team's friendly against local club Al-Wakrah on Saturday.

Technical director Christian Nerlinger says watching Robben in training is "mouthwatering stuff" and coach Louis van Gaal has called Robben's return his biggest "signing" in the off-season.

Bayern is 14 points behind Bundesliga leader Borussia Dortmund and plays Inter Milan in the Champions League Round of 16, in a repeat of the final it lost against the Italian side last season. Bayern is desperate for Robben's flair and scoring to lift the team after a disappointing opening half of the season.

"It's a pleasure for me to watch him train. I'm extremely pleased with how it's going," van Gaal said in comments posted on Bayern's website.

Robben said he always knew the recovery would be long but never doubted he would be back.

The 26-year-old Dutchman said his priority was to regain his rhythm, but that he would "rather play tomorrow than in three to four weeks. But ultimately, it's the boss's decision."

Van Gaal plans to field Robben as a substitute in the friendly against Al-Wakrah.

"I think he might well manage 30 minutes or even more," the coach said.

Robben was more cautious about his possible return Jan. 15 against Wolfsburg in the opening match after the break.

"Let's wait and see how it goes. I'm taking each day as it comes. I'm very pleased so far because it's going well, and I feel good on the ball," Robben said. "The worst part was going to the stadium for home games and not playing, but one thought kept me going: I wanted to come back even stronger than before. That's why I've put in so much work. I want to be an important member of the team again as soon as possible."

Defender Philipp Lahm said it was important for Robben to regain full fitness as soon as possible, but Nerlinger was obviously impressed with what he saw.

"Watching Arjen train was mouthwatering stuff," Nerlinger said. "This season, we can justifiably regard him as being like a new signing. He has so much quality, he's likely to make the team far, far better than in the first half of the campaign."

Source: Associated Press


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