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Chance given, chance taken

Altintop delight at place in starting line-up

The training session on the day after a match always sees the squad split into two groups. On the one hand, there are the players who started the game in question and played more than a half. They are decked out in track shoes and go for a gentle warm-down jog. The other group comprises the subs and the men who weren’t even in the matchday squad. They are fully kitted out, and complete a normal workout.

Most of the time over the last few months, Hamit Altintop has been part of the second group. But on Wednesday, the morning after the 2-1 Champions League quarter-final victory over Manchester United, the situation was different. Jogging alongside Jörg Butt and Franck Ribéry, the visibly good-humoured Turkey international put in a few relaxed circuits of the Säbener Strasse facility.

Hamit’s delight at playing

It was only Altintop’s second start since the turn of the year. After deciding not to risk Arjen Robben, who was still troubled by a minor calf strain, Louis van Gaal put his faith in the 27-year-old midfielder and handed him a second Champions League run-out of the season.

Van Gaal informed Hamit of the news on Monday. “Obviously, I was delighted to be playing,” said Altintop, a member of the starting line-up for the first five Bundesliga fixtures of the campaign, but thereafter only called upon to begin a game back on 21 October in Bordeaux and on 6 March in Cologne. In between times, he managed only a handful of brief substitute appearances, and was also sidelined for a spell with a tight calf.

Gelsenkirchen-born Altintop against Schalke?

“I reckon I combined well with Philipp on the right flank,” said Altintop, who was plunged in at the deep end against United. However, and especially in the second half, he was a source of increasing creativity and inspiration for FCB, creating an excellent shooting chance with a mazy dribble on 56 minutes. Exhaustion finally caught up with him and he gave way to Miroslav Klose four minutes from time. “He’s played his part well,” Van Gaal said in praise afterwards.

“I’m hoping I might get to play again on Saturday,” Hamit said. Bayern travel to face leaders Schalke – and for Gelsenkirchen-born former Royal Blue Altintop it would hardly be just another league fixture. “My aim is to play all the time,” he said, “and I think I showed that against Manchester.”