BERLIN (AFP) - Bayern Munich will look to their fit-again French midfielder Franck Ribery on Saturday as the German giants hunt a ninth straight league win against Borussia Dortmund that could see them move top.
The 26-year-old star playmaker has been sidelined with a knee injury and has not started a Bundesliga game for more than four months.
But after scoring once and lasting 73 minutes in Wednesday's 6-2 drubbing of second-division side Furth in the German Cup, coach Louis van Gaal said he was looking to Ribery to shine against fifth-placed Dortmund.
"We should not forget that Franck has only played two 90-minute games in recent months. We need him against Dortmund and Fiorentina," said van Gaal, referring to Bayern's Champions League last 16 clash against the Italian outfit on February 17.
"I hope he can play from the beginning against Fiorentina," he added.
The German giants, 21 times Bundesliga champions, are second on goal difference behind local rivals Bayer Leverkusen, who host defending champions Wolfsburg.
If results go their way, Bayern could clinch top place for the first time since May 17, 2008.
The Frenchman was visibly annoyed at being substituted against Furth, but van Gaal said he needs to come back gradually as Bayern continue to battle on three fronts this season, in the Champions League, the Cup and the Bundesliga.
"Everyone wants to play for longer... I need to build him up and integrate him back into the team. That is what I am doing," he said.
Ribery himself said he was "sad" and "surprised" at being hauled off before the final whistle, but said he was pleased he was able to start.
Van Gaal's men will be hoping for a similar result to the last time the two sides met in the league, with Bayern thumping Dortmund 5-1 on September 12.
And the coach will also be willing former Chelsea striker Arjen Robben, who has found the net in the last three Bundesliga games, to continue his impressive goal-scoring run.
Meanwhile, top-of-the-table side Leverkusen will be aiming to keep holding Bayern at bay with three points against Wolfsburg, who have lost the form that took them to the Bundesliga crown last year, slumping to 12th in the table.
In a Sunday afternoon kick-off, third-placed Schalke, three points behind the leaders, host Cologne, also languishing in mid-table.
Fourth-placed Hamburg will be hoping their new star signing Ruud van Nistelrooy makes an immediate impact as they travel to Stuttgart.
The prolific Dutchman made his debut as a 90th-minute substitute during last week's 3-3 draw with Cologne but will likely play a more prominent role as Hamburg seek to close the gap on Schalke for an automatic Champions League berth.
Meanwhile, at the bottom of the table, Hertha Berlin, still eight points from relegation safety, will seek to bounce back from a 2-1 defeat against Werder Bremen as they host mid-table Mainz.
Bayer Leverkusen v VfL Wolfsburg, VfB Stuttgart v Hamburg, VfL Bochum v Hoffenheim, Hanover 96 v Werder Bremen, Hertha Berlin v Mainz 05, Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund
Schalke 04 v Cologne, Eintracht Frankfurt v Freiburg
|5||D. Van Buyten|
|17||M. van Bommel||21'|
|Coach: L. van Gaal|
for F. Ribéry 72'
for A. Robben 82'
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