For most of the season, striker Lukas Podolski has struggled even to make coach Juergen Klinsmann's squads. But now, after a raft of injuries, Bayern Munich have no choice but to field the former prodigy.
Podolski has gone from the stands to the starting eleven
Bayern got the result they were looking for last weekend with a 3-nil away win against Bochum. But it may turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory, as striker Miroslav Klose picked up an ankle injury that will keep him out for at least six weeks.
With Luca Toni out since mid-February with a gammy Achilles tendon, and Landon Donovan having been sent back to the US, the reigning champs probably have no choice but to field Prince Poldi in Saturday's clash against Karlsruhe.
"It's not easy for me as a coach," Klinsmann told the sports news agency SID. "Now all I can do is knock on wood and hope no one [else] gets hurt."
Bayern forced to rely on eternal substitute
The Prince was successful recently in the Champions League against Sporting Lisbon
Especially Podolski, Klinsmann might have said. But the 23-year-old, who is headed back to his home club Cologne at the end of the season, has scored only four league goals this season -- two of them from penalty kicks and none that were game-winners.
That's partly due to the fact that he's only played 15 games this season, and in eight of those he only came on as a second-half substitute.
Klinsmann is hoping that Podolski wants -- and is able -- to add a happy ending to his unhappy three-season tenure in Munich.
"Lukas aims to leave with an exclamation point," Klinsmann told the Bild newspaper before last weekend's Bochum match. "He wants to show that he can play at our level."
But Podolski failed to score against Bochum, pulling his best chance -- a penalty, wide of goal.
And that means Bayern are in a precarious position. Currently trailing league leaders Hertha Berlin by four points, and leading Wolfsburg and Hamburg only on goal difference, the reigning champs can't afford to drop too many more points.
Podolski rediscovers scoring touch
But Podolski has found the net in Bayern's recent international matches, drawing praise from Germany's national coach.
"Lukas clearly has used his chance -- and not just with three goals in his last three games," Germany coach Joachim Loew told SID. "You have to be prepared for moments like this as a substitute player."
Barring injury, Podolski will almost certainly make the starting eleven for Bayern's next match against last-placed Karlsruhe.
It will be the start of the biggest challenge of Prince Poldi's young career -- trying to help lead short-handed Bayern to another title.
Author: Jefferson Chase
Editor: Trinity Hartman