Munich - It may have been business as usual for FC Bayern München against SC Freiburg on Saturday, but for one of their standout performers at the Allianz Arena, the Matchday 21 encounter with the Black Forest club was very much a game of two halves.
Looking on the bright side
’s quickfire first-half brace put the league leaders firmly in the driving seat in Munich after Dante had given the hosts a 19th-minute lead. At that stage, it looked as if the Switzerland international was well on course for a starting berth against Arsenal FC in the UEFA Champions League last-16 first-leg tie on Wednesday.
However, Shaqiri’s afternoon was cut short just after the hour mark when he was forced off with a thigh complaint, with coming on in his place. Although the 22-year-old did his best after the game to convince the assembled media that the substitution had been “nothing more than a precaution”, tests revealed he had suffered a torn thigh muscle which will keep him out of the mid-week trip to North London, as well as Bayern’s next Bundesliga match at Hannover 96.
The news will come as a bitter blow to Shaqiri, who missed a large portion of the Hinrunde with a similar injury, restricting him to just one 90-minute appearance this season - at Freiburg's Mage Solar Stadion back in August. Not that the former FC Basel 1893 star seemed too downhearted after the final whistle on Saturday: “We had a wonderful afternoon today,” he said. “The weather was fine, we played well and we won.”
With Franck Ribery already ruled out of Wednesday’s match at the Emirates Stadium, an in-form Shaqiri would have been by many as an ideal replacement for the French winger, not least his own team-mates: “He’s a player who can decide matches all by himself,” Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer said of the 1.69-metre man following Bayern’s 13th consecutive Bundesliga victory. “There are maybe three or four players who are capable of individual brilliance like that - he’s definitely one of them.”
Shaqiri proved as much against Christian Streich’s side on Saturday: The winger finished off a fine solo run to double Bayern’s lead after 34 minutes and finished expertly to double his personal tally eight minutes later, despite the shot taking a slight deflection off Thomas Müller on its way in. Not that it mattered in the grander scheme of things: “When it’s 3-0 at half-time, Freiburg know they won’t be leaving here with a big win,” said Müller. A comeback of such grand proportions was improbable, to say the least, although Admir Mehmedi did have the ball in the Bayern net in the second half, only for the goal to be chalked off for offside.
It was Claudio Pizarro who put the finishing touches to another convincing Bayern victory in the 88th minute. Like Shaqiri, the Peruvian has only had a bit-part role in Pep Guardiola’s side so far this term, but the Swiss star feels the duo proved their value to the quadruple-winners’ squad this weekend: “The coach gave us another opportunity and we managed to thank him with a good performance,” said Shaqiri, who won 55 per cent of his challenges and had more attempts at goal than any other player at the Allianz Arena on Saturday.
Shaqiri will be forced to watch from the sidelines once again in London, but he is confident his team-mates can reach the last eight of Europe’s premier club competition at Arsenal’s expense. The youngster had an ominous message for Arsene Wenger and his players ahead of the third meeting between the two teams in under twelve months: '“It doesn’t matter who’s on the pitch,” he said. “Everyone’s ready.”
Maximilian Lotz/adaptation by Matthew Howarth