Munich - After a productive trip to the Middle East during the winter break, FC Bayern Munich have been able to recharge their batteries and also welcome back some star talent to their ranks ahead of what promises to be a gruelling end to the season.
On a roll
That is not to say that the first half of the season has been a stroll in the park, yet such has been the sheer authority with which Bayern have negotiated a campaign on three fronts that one might be forgiven for thinking they haven’t truly been tested.
Heynckes’ men are nine points clear at the top of the Bundesliga table, having lost just once in the league all season, against Bayer 04 Leverkusen in October. They have also advanced to the quarter-finals of the DFB Cup and the last 16 of the Champions League and kick-off the Rückrunde with a home game against bottom club Greuther Fürth.
That is not all. The winter has allowed some notable talent to gradually return to fitness. , who only featured in the last seven games of the Hinrunde after injuring an ankle in the summer, will be as fresh as ever come the derby against Fürth, providing more competition to Mario Mandzukic, who himself has 10 league goals.
is also raring to go after a productive few days in Qatar. The Dutchman has featured just five times in the Bundesliga this season after suffering a succession of injuries since returning from UEFA EURO 2012. The 28-year-old was one of the star performers in the 5-0 friendly win over FC Schalke 04 earlier this week and was again entrusted with the captain’s armband for part of that game. With Thomas Müller and Xherdan Shaqiri also fit, the depth and quality in the squad is frightening.
Being able to welcome back players of the calibre of Gomez and Robben is a luxury indeed, and it is a welcome one since every member of the squad is likely to be needed for their assault on domestic and European glory this season. As many as 27 games could lie between the Reds and winning a treble, a feat the club has never before managed, but one that the current crop of talent certainly seems capable of achieving.
Covering for Badstuber
The only notable concern is the injury to defender Holger Badstuber, who will likely miss the rest of the season after rupturing knee ligaments in December. His absence will be felt, particularly in Europe where Jerome Boateng is suspended and will miss the last 16 tie with Arsenal. That still leaves the experienced Daniel van Buyten or Anatoliy Tymoshchuk available to fill in, or even Spanish midfielder Javi Martinez, who played occasionally at centre-back for previous club Athletic Bilbao.
The Reds take on FC Basel in a friendly match on Saturday evening, a game which sees Swiss starlet Xherdan Shaqiri return to his former club for a game that he “is looking forward to,” even if it will be “a strange feeling to line up against former comrades.” Yet even though this is only a friendly game, the Reds will no doubt want to add to the momentum they have been building, and that spells trouble for Fürth.