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By Karolos Grohmann
Dec 9 (Reuters) - Bayern Munich’s Bastian Schweinsteiger could make his first start of the season against CSKA Moscow on Wednesday as the Bavarians struggle with a long injury list having already secured top spot in Champions League Group E.
The 30-year-old playmaker only recently made a comeback after a four-month break due to a knee injury and has played less than 45 minutes in four substitute appearances so far.
Bayern are top on 12 points and coach Pep Guardiola could give Schweinsteiger his first start this term with defender Medhi Benatia suspended and half a dozen other absences.
“He is working well and intensively in training,” Bayern sports director Matthias Sammer told reporters after their 1-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga on Saturday, when Schweinsteiger made another brief appearance at the end,.
Bayern have successfully absorbed the effects of a string of injuries, with Thiago Alcantara, Holger Badstuber, Philipp Lahm, David Alaba, Claudio Pizarro, Javi Martinez and goalkeepers Tom Starke and Pepe Reina still out injured.
They are unbeaten in the Bundesliga and lost 3-2 to Manchester City last time out in the CXhampions league in their only defeat in three competitions this season, despite leading 2-1 until late in the game and playing 70 minutes with 10 men.
Schweinsteiger’s return offers more options in the holding midfield position and, with Xabi Alonso having played 15 consecutive games since joining this season from Real Madrid, Guardiola could give the Spaniard a rest.
Winger Franck Ribery, who was also injured earlier in the campaign, looks to be back to his very best, having scored his 100th goal for the Bavarians in their home win over Leverkusen.
With CSKA keeper Igor Akinfeev having conceded at least a goal in each of his past 26 Champions League matches, Frenchman Ribery could add to his Bayern goal tally.
The Russians have a mountain to climb to reach the knockout stage for the third time. With five points from five games, they need a win in Munich and must hope Manchester City do not lose at AS Roma in the other group game to reach the last 16.
CSKA, who have never beaten a German team in Germany, will need to be at their very best with Bayern having conceded only three goals in 14 league games this season.
They had conceded one in their first four Champions League games before the defeat in Manchester last month. (Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Ken Ferris)