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The vice-captain's presence on the bench on Saturday was enough to propel the Bavarians out of their rut. Now the talisman is looking to send his side into the last eight

ANALYSIS
By Clark Whitney | German Football Editor

Watching Bayern Munich in recent weeks, it’s easy to forget how well the German giants performed in August, September and October.

Only a few months ago, Jupp Heynckes’ side went 1147 minutes without conceding, humbling the likes of Manchester City in the process. At the time, they were spoken in the same breath as Barcelona and Real Madrid: the only serious challengers to the Spanish duo’s hegemony in the Champions League.

Much has changed since then. What was once an eight-point lead over holders Dortmund in the Bundesliga had not long ago turned into a seven-point disadvantage. And while Saturday’s 7-1 hammering of Hoffenheim suggests the Bavarians have turned the corner, one match is not a trend. There is still very much to do.

Jupp Heynckes, once praised for bringing balance and much-needed defensive strength to the team, is rumoured to be teetering on the edge of a dismissal from his post. It all depends on how die Roten fare in Tuesday’s Champions League round of 16 second-leg clash against Basel, who in Switzerland left Bayern facing elimination with a 1-0 win.

THE SCHWEINSTEIGER EFFECT

 BAYERN'S STATS WITH SCHWEINSTEIGER
GAMES PLAYED
GAMES WON
WIN PERCENTAGE
GOALS SCORED (avg)
GOAL CONCEDED (avg)

22
17
77.3%
57 (2.59)
10 (0.45)

 BAYERN'S STATS WITHOUT SCHWEINSTEIGER
GAMES PLAYED
GAMES WON
WIN PERCENTAGE
GOALS SCORED (avg)
GOAL CONCEDED (avg)

15
9
60.0%
28 (1.87)
11 (0.73)

Credit: Mohammad Hamdan  
Bayern’s problems as of late have been escalating, and they range from injuries to a lack of confidence, to quarrels between the players. But the club’s downward spiral all began with one critical event: the loss of Bastian Schweinsteiger due to a fractured clavicle in early November.

The good news for Bayern is that after more than four months on the sidelines due to his collarbone injury and subsequent ankle ligament damage, Schweinsteiger is finally back to fitness and ready to start for the first time since the beginning of February. His recovery comes not a moment too soon, as his side prepare to host Basel.

It goes without saying that Bayern will need more than just Schweinsteiger if they are to complete a come-back. The front four - especially Mario Gomez, Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller - will need to be on form, while the back five will be under pressure not to concede what could be a fatal away goal.

On the other hand, Schweinsteiger’s return will provide a big boost of morale and bring much-needed leadership and experience to the Bavarians’ midfield. As the result against Hoffenheim suggests, it could be just what Heynckes’ side need to find their best form once more. And if so, it comes at the right time in the season.

Schweinsteiger cannot be expected to hit peak form immediately after his comeback; he did not, after all, in the two-and-a-half weeks in January and February before he injured his ankle. If Bayern can progress to the quarter-finals, however, his injury troubles just might be a blessing in disguise.

With two weeks - or three depending on the draw - before the next round, Schweinsteiger will have enough time to recover his form, and critically, having spent several months on the sidelines, he will be physically and emotionally fresh as the season nears its end. And if he is at his best and the attack is firing on all cylinders, if Bayern can rediscover the form that propelled them to the top earlier in the campaign, there is nothing they can’t do. Just ask Hoffenheim.

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