When Jerome Boateng went down with an ill-timed adductor injury in the first game of the Rückrunde three months ago, the prognosis was not good. Initial reports suggested that the defender could be out until May, prompting Bavarian Football Works to poll readers regarding whether or not Bayern should invest in the January window to replace an otherwise irreplaceable part of the team. An overwhelming 74% of readers felt that a January move was necessary, but the subsequent loan deal for Serdar Tasci was not what the majority of fans would have expected. To further complicate matters, fan-favorite Holger Badstuber went down with a season-ending injury in February, leaving the defensive state of the team in tatters.
Fast-forward to mid-April and the defensive woes seem to be improving. Joshua Kimmich put in an impressive shift at center back despite his inexperience. Javi Martinez recently returned to first-team action and is showing signs of once again becoming the destroyer we all know he can be. Medhi Benatia played for the first time in almost a month in the recent match against Schalke and actually looked decent. Meanwhile, Tasci has featured for a meager (and unimpressive) 53 minutes and can hardly even find a spot auf der Bank.
Despite the hardships, it seems that Bayern have pulled through what many fans anticipated would be dark days. The team fought tooth and nail against the Italian and Portuguese champions to reach the semifinals of the Champions League. They currently have a comfortable lead atop the Bundesliga and will host Werder Bremen in the semifinals of the DFB Pokal on Tuesday. Although the defensive woes have been the cause of increased blood pressure and occasional chest pains in supporters, the haggard back line has done just enough to overcome their inadequacies (with quite a bit of help from the offense) to progress through some very difficult ties, and the team continues to challenge on three fronts.
As Bayern warily edges towards what seemed three months ago to be an implausible treble, there is further reason to hope: Jerome Boateng's recovery from injury has progressed as expected and he could be back for a season-defining stretch of games. Reports early last week stated that Boateng had started an individual training regimen on the ball. According to Bild, Boateng trained with Steeven Ribéry this weekend and worked on heading and trapping the ball as well as running sprints. He is set to return to full-team training this week.
This season has been a tumultuous one for Bayern so far, but the greatest obstacles still lie ahead. The Champions League semifinal against Atlético Madrid will be the penultimate test of how far this Bayern team can go and, while there is no guarantee that Boateng will have enough time to develop the match fitness required to play against Atlético, the prospect that he might be able to feature in some very important games down the line is good news. After all, this team has demonstrated an admirable knack for adapting to situations and putting forth an extra bit of oomph when necessary.
The return of Boateng could be just the right amount of oomph to help Bayern through the next set of challenges, but nobody said it was going to be easy.