Some 32 hours prior to kick-off, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Heiko Vogel crossed paths in the Allianz Arena media centre. The two old acquaintances shook hands, swapped a few words, grinned, and stared into each other's eyes. “Back then, we used to play two-against-two. We used to call him Paul Scholes because of his ginger hair," recalled Schweinsteiger, a former protégé of the Basel boss when he was a youth coach at Bayern.
As of 8.45 on Tuesday evening, Schweinsteiger and Vogel are opponents, “and tomorrow, there's no friendship," the player declared on Tuesday. “I'm well aware that Bastian would strengthen any team in the world," said the Basel coach, acknowledging the quality of his former pupil, described as Bayern's “playmaker and organiser” by home boss Jupp Heynckes. However, Bastian only recently resumed training some five weeks after damaging ankle ligaments, and the 27-year-old is by no means a confirmed starter against the Swiss champions. “We'll see how it is tomorrow," Heynckes commented..
“Naturally, I'm fired up and I want to play," responded Schweinsteiger, although he himself pointed out that he only resumed the squad program a couple of days ago, and that Munich played exceptionally well without him for the first hour of the 7-1 victory over Hoffenheim. “Whether I play is a secondary issue. It's more important that we win as a team and that the club hits its targets," said the midfielder, “I'm just delighted to be fit and back again."
It is an opinion shared by Heynckes. Not for the first time, the Bayern boss insisted his vice-captain was “in the same league as Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets. It's very important to have him back in the dressing room. He’s an inspiration, on and off the field." Schweinsteiger returned from his four-week lay-off on Saturday in a 28 minute substitute appearance. The Allianz Arena crowd welcomed the player back with frenetic cheers of approval.
Pain has cleared up
“It was a very nice reception," Schweinsteiger commented after the weekend match. He came through his half-hour on the pitch without any reaction to the injury: “There were no major pains." However, he is still some way off full fitness: “I need playing time and good training sessions." Heynckes is broadly in agreement: “I know he can help us even with a half hour or by coming on at half-time."
The player said he would accept the boss's decision regarding the starting line-up and would show no dissent if he is not picked. “If I play, I'll be delighted. If I don't play, I'll enjoy the match and I'll try and cheer on the team from the touchlines."