Schweinsteiger primed for 'the big games'

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Bastian Schweinsteiger looks like a man on a mission in Doha. His intoxicating passion and commitment are unmistakeable in training, especially in the routine warm-up games of five-on-two, where the FCB vice-captain is a bundle of energy, laughter and shouts of delight if he pulls off a near-impossible pass or his opponent fails by a hair's breath with an attempted interception. Bastian Schweinsteiger is back on the ball at the heart of the team -- exactly where he belongs.

"I'm delighted I've put the business with the knee and before that the ankle behind me," the 31-year-old said on Monday. Basti missed most of the first half of the season with a damaged kneecap, and previously underwent surgery in November 2013 to correct an abnormality in his ankle. However, it is all behind him now.

"I'm feeling good and really looking forward to the rest of the season," said the midfielder, who finally made a first appearance of term in late November. He steadily recovered match fitness and completed the full 90 minutes of the meetings with CSKA Moscow and Mainz in the run-up to Christmas. "I think it was a good comeback. I'm really pleased I got to play again before the mid-season break," he remarked. The last match before the holidays away to Mainz included a textbook Schweinsteiger goal direct from a free-kick, "and that did me the world of good," he acknowledged.

"The most important thing for him is a good period of preparation in January," Pep Guardiola said a short time ago. The head coach is pleased with what he has observed in the early sessions of the training camp: "I believe we'll see the best of Bastian Schweinsteiger in the second half of the season. That's what I'm hoping for."

Schweinsteiger is throwing himself into every drill out on the practice ground. "I'm concentrating on the essentials: on the sport and what happens out on the field," he commented. In 2015, Schweinsteiger is determined to follow up Germany's World Cup triumph with more silverware. "I hope we'll have plenty more big games," he declared, "the tiny details are decisive, especially in the Champions League. That's what you have to be prepared for." And that's why he puts so much effort into the games of five-on-two.

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