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Ribery relishing role as leader of France's attack

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 5, 2013 at 12:56 pm •  Published: February 5, 2013

PARIS (AP) — With Karim Benzema struggling in front of goal, Franck Ribery will once again spearhead France's attack and is already looking forward to taking on Bayern Munich teammate Philipp Lahm in Wednesday's friendly against Germany.

Benzema has not scored in his past nine games for France. Ribery found the net in France's 3-1 win against Belarus in September, set up Olivier Giroud's injury-time equalizer in a 1-1 draw away to Spain in October, and has been scoring and creating goals regularly for Bayern.

Although Lahm normally plays at left back, a tactical switch by coach Joachim Loew means he will play on the right and must stop Ribery's forays from the left.

"It will be a good battle. He's a very good player who brings a lot to the attack as well. We both know each other very well and I think we'll enjoy it tomorrow," Ribery said Tuesday. "Maybe he knows my qualities and how to mark me, but I also know his weaknesses."

Lahm is also relishing the tussle.

"He is one of the best players in the world," Lahm said through a translator. "We're both impatient to face each other."

Ribery, who is in his sixth season with the Bavarian club and has spoken of wanting to end his career there, is envious of Germany's consistency. It has reached the semifinals of the past four major tournaments and also got to the 2002 World Cup final.

France won the 1998 World Cup and the European Championship in 2000, but has only managed to reach one quarterfinal in its past three tournaments — losing meekly to Spain at the quarterfinal stage of Euro 2012 under former coach Laurent Blanc.

"Germany has been doing good things for many years. It's often the same team, the same players, they know each other very well and the coach has been there for a very long time," Ribery said. "We've had our highs and lows, we have a new coach who has his own ideas, and the squad is starting to feel more and more confident."

Germany has several injuries, with striker Miroslav Klose (knee), midfielder Mario Goetze (viral infection), forward Marco Reus (groin strain) and veteran midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger (ankle) all sidelined.

"We're up against a good team tomorrow, even if they have a few injuries. But it's still Germany and they have great players," Ribery said. "They're always great games, I think that will be the case again tomorrow and the Stade de France will be full."

Although Ribery has hit top form recently, this is not the case for Benzema. He totals a modest 15 goals in 54 international appearances and has managed only five so far in 18 league games this term for Real Madrid — with half of those appearances as a substitute.

France coach Didier Deschamps defended Benzema, saying that the number of goals he has created for France in the past two years stands him in good stead.

"Obviously he hopes to be more efficient but, as I've already said, he doesn't only do that (score). He helps others to score," Deschamps said. "Ask the Spanish, the Italians, and the Germans who they would pick if they had to choose two or three players from our team and they would always pick him."

Deschamps, however, pledged to no longer experiment with him in a wide role.

"I know he's a central striker, even if I have played him out wide," Deschamps said. "His best position is through the middle."

Benzema scored 21 league goals last season but has struggled to impose himself ahead of Gonzalo Higuain this term.

"One of them starts and the other one comes on for the last 30 minutes, and maybe one of them gets a bit of a longer run if they're more in form," Deschamps said. "He has to deal with this situation, sometimes it's not easy. But he has quite a bit of experience now."