The initial diagnosis of Thiago Alcantara's syndesmosis injury was seven weeks. That mark has long passed, but with Thiago training over the international break, his return is as imminent as ever.
What a game to return to, the German rivalry of the millennium between FC Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund.
Thiago appearing on the team sheet is not news; he did that when he was not healthy, taking the spot of late-scratch Diego Contento. Add Franck Ribéry's fractured rib and a spot on the bench is baiting with open arms.
What would be news is if he played, FC Bayern getting something out of their €25 million man. Guardiola has at his disposal for the first time since August a change-of-pace midfielder that can play as a deep play-maker or as a service-providing winger. But forget tactics or player attributes for a second.
Guardiola has used somewhat of a blueprint in reintegrating his injured players back into his side. With so many mouths to feed, he has managed to balance the playing time of inform players with ones he wants to reincorporate with his system.
|Name||Injury||Unavailable||Return to Team Sheet||Return to Pitch
||Return to XI|
|Bastian Schweinsteiger||Ankle*||18 days||Sept. 14 vs. Hannover||Sept. 17 vs. CSKA||Sept. 21 vs. Schalke|
|Mario Götze||Ankle||29 days||Sept. 28 vs. Wolfsburg||Oct. 2 vs. Man City||Nov. 2 vs. Hoffenheim|
|Javi Martinez||Groin||54 days||Oct. 23 vs. Plzen||Oct. 26 vs. Hertha BSC||Nov. 2 vs. Hoffenheim|
|Thiago||Ankle||77 days||Nov. 11 vs. Augsburg||??||??|
*Schweinsteiger's ankle injury he sustained against SC Freiburg on August 27, not the post-operative ossification Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfarth repaired recently
The caveats are important but merely noteworthy. The time between Götze's pitch return and his lineup return seemed more tactical and personnel based, unless news of setbacks stayed behind closed doors. Also, no two injuries are alike, and recovery times are unique to every individual player.
One can argue that the nature of Thiago team sheet return disqualifies it as anything "official", but keep in mind, the other returns were of a similar nature. Schweinsteiger was questionable at best against Hannover 96, with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge "hoping" he would play, while Martínez was a warm body on the bench, a return "still too soon" against FC Viktoria Plzen.
Thiago also has the benefit of having two weeks of training after his return to the team-sheet, no matter how dubious an indicator that is. With extra time to test the tenderness in his ankle, Thiago is more likely to be one of Guardiola's substitutes, especially given only once that the gaffer has not used three substitutes in a Bundesliga match.
Would it be a shock if Thiago did not play? Well, no, largely because of the UEFA Champions League match against PFC CSKA Moskva at midweek. With the international break to train, though, a return to action is in the offing for Thiago.