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Back in the team

Schweinsteiger earns praise on return

As comebacks go, it was a very good one, crowned by a beautiful header to set the team on the road to victory. He was also the busiest player on the pitch: even though he was substituted in the 78th minute, he finished on 105 touches of the ball. We’re talking about Bastian Schweinsteiger, Bayern’s midfield general, who is finally back after a stubborn ankle injury. On Saturday evening, the vice-captain started for the first time since the 1-1 draw in Freiburg three weeks ago, and put up a stunning performance in the Reds’ 4-0 win over Schalke.

“We were focused from the start and took the game very seriously. We had the right mentality,” Schweinsteiger declared afterwards. But he was also visibly satisfied with his own performance, while staying typically modest: “I try to fit my playing style into the team’s system, so I can help the team.”

After missing the Super Cup against Chelsea and the international double-header for Germany, and not being fit enough after injury to start against Hannover and CSKA Moscow, Basti made his comeback on Saturday alongside Toni Kroos in central midfield. Philipp Lahm played a more defensive midfield role most of the time, while occasionally swapping with Schweinsteiger. The Germany international feels very comfortable in the role: “I like the position, because I can be both attacking or defensive, depending on the situation,” the 29-year-old explained. 

High praise for Schweinsteiger

Schweinsteiger showed his class especially when FCB were attacking. The third goal, scored by Franck Ribéry after 75 minutes, was initiated by his perfect pass to David Alaba. His header after Arjen Robben's corner (21) was both important and impressive. In his own words, he used to hit the woodwork a lot with headers, but “since last season I’m finally scoring with them too.” And that’s a fact: five out of his last eight goals for Bayern have been scored with his head.

The importance of Schweinsteiger's return was underlined by Matthias Sammer: “Bastian is flexible when building an attack and a lifeline when defending. He also organises the team very well,” the sporting director proclaimed. “He is the heart and soul of our game.” It is probably impossible to top that level of praise, coming from the notoriously hard-to-please Sammer, so team-mate Robben didn’t try: ”It was very, very good to see Bastian back on the pitch,” the winger simply said.

Schweinsteiger will surely be pleased to hear these positive words, but he is already thinking one step ahead: “The combination of Bayern Munich and Pep Guardiola can hopefully give us long-term success.” The Bavarians are undefeated in the Bundesliga, the DFB Cup and the Champions League this term. “It's looking great at the moment,” the Germany international said. He also reckons to have found out Bayern’s recipe for success: “We’re very flexible. It makes it very hard for opponents to predict. Our coach has a lot of options too, which increases our variety.” Schweinsteiger’s return merely adds another option to the menu.