After 253 days out injured, Javier Martinez is back on the pitch. And his first task is a mammoth one: stopping Barcelona in the Champions League. DW talked to the 26-year-old about his timely return.
The return of Javi Martinez is one of few pieces of good news for Bayern Munich ahead of their Champions League semifinal against Barcelona on Wednesday. The German champions have travelled to Spain with a small squad after a number of injuries. Martinez's return to health comes at just the right time. Nine months after he damaged his cruciate knee ligaments, Martinez returned to action in Bayern's defeat to Leverkusen in the Bundesliga last weekend. The Spaniard put in a solid display, before being taken off shortly after the hour mark. Ahead of the game against Barcelona, Martinez is confident about both his form and his team's chances of progression.
DW: You issed nearly the entire season due to a knee injury. In total, you were out for 44 games. You made your comeback in Leverkusen and now you face Barcelona in the biggest game of the season. What was it like to be back on the pitch?
Javier Martinez: I was over the moon about it. I am a footballer through and through. Football is my life. Playing again feels like being born again. After such a bad injury, all the difficulties that I had to endure and the number of hours in the gym and at the physio, it is special to return. It was fantastic to be able to do what I love doing the most: play football.
Will you play against Barcelona?
My aim is to help the team in this important stage of the season. I will give the team what the head coach wants from me. I will do everything I can to ensure the team stays on course. I am here if needed.
Bayern's injury list is quite long at the moment. How is the team handling that at the moment?
The last few games have been a battle for survival really. We've just been happy to head back into the changing rooms after the game without another injury. In recent weeks, we've really had a bad run of luck.
Compared to Barcelona are Bayern a weaker side?
It's at times like this you really noticed how big the club is. There are so many good players at Bayern that the team can rely on. If a player is out injured then someone who is at least just as good steps in. The quality of this squad is enormous.
How is the mood in camp ahead of this huge game?
We are really looking forward to it. All of us want to take a step towards our ultimate goal: We want to reach the Champions League final. We want to repeat what we achieved two years ago. We want to lift the trophy again. We are very focused and clear on this goal. Our opposition is irrelevant. It's a shame that so many of my teammates are out injured, but that's football. Our task is to give our best on the pitch - and at Bayern there's a lot of that.
After their strong performances in all competitions, Barcelona has been labeled favorites by the media. Do you agree?
I don't think there's a clear favorite in a game like this. In Champions League semifinals, the chances are always 50/50. Both Bayern and Barcelona have a lot of quality and that means you can only expect a very tough battle. The little things will decide who wins the game.
What's your prediction?
The only thing I can say beforehand is that it will be a very difficult game.
Javier Martinez moved to Bayern Munich from Athletic Bilbao in 2012 for 40 million euros - the Bundesliga's record transfer fee. The price appeared to weigh heavy on the shoulders of the midfielder at the start, but in 2013 the Spaniard found his form and helped the club win the treble. Shortly before the start of the season, the 26-year-old suffered a serious injury in the Super Cup against Dortmund and has only just returned to the squad.