With FC Bayern München deprived of their midfield linchpin since early November, the return of Bastian Schweinsteiger cannot come soon enough for the European champions.
After deciding to undergo ankle surgery for the second time since the end of last season, the phlegmatic German international has made little noise. His club, however, have been vocal in their support, acknowledging Schweinsteiger's uncanny ability to orchestrate big games ahead of next month's UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie with Arsenal FC.
That is not to say Josep Guardiola's men have struggled in the 29-year-old's absence. Since edging Manchester City FC to top spot in Group D, the all-conquering Bavarians lifted the FIFA Club World Cup and strode 13 points clear at the Bundesliga summit on Wednesday courtesy of a 2-1 comeback victory at VfB Stuttgart.
The fact Guardiola still longs for Schweinsteiger's return speaks volumes about his talent. "It's been a problem for both of us. We need him and so does the national team. He is a big personality," the Spanish tactician explained. Germany boss Joachim Löw is a little more relaxed after meeting Schweinsteiger in Munich. "He is getting back into the rhythm of things and will soon be back in full training," he said. "I've a good feeling about Bastian."
Having been the subject of much speculation, Schweinsteiger this week felt obliged to set the record straight. "During the [midwinter] training camp I had a few problems with my knee but it feels better now. I'm on schedule and hope to be back in training soon. I know what my qualities are and if I'm 100% fit I'll play. I keep a calm state of mind; I know how my body works," he said.
Given Schweinsteiger has gone under the knife twice recently and also fractured his collarbone in 2011, question marks loom large over his long-term health. However, with the unconditional support of Guardiola and Löw, who seldom spares an opportunity to bill Schweinsteiger as the world's finest midfielder, it would take someone brave to write off a stirring comeback.
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