Ex-Germany captain Michael Ballack says he is relishing Sunday's crunch Bundesliga tie when his Bayer Leverkusen side tackle champions Bayern Munich as he pushes for a return to the national side.
The 34-year-old has made 14 appearances for Leverkusen this season, but only six over 90 minutes, after back-to-back injuries saw him sidelined until the start of the year. With Leverkusen second in the league and on course for a UEFA Champions League berth next season, Ballack hopes to play the full 90 minutes at Bayern.
Capped 98 times, Ballack has not played for Germany since March 2010. The Germans host Uruguay in a 29 May friendly and he is hoping to convince national coach Joachim Loew he is ready to return.
"I feel really fit again now that I have played a few games over the 90 minutes," Ballack said in an interview with Bayer TV. "Of course, I was hoping that the coach would have brought me back a bit earlier, but now I have found my rhythm again I can help the team."
Leverkusen's director of sport Rudi Voeller said Ballack's prowess as a midfield general is what Bayer need. "He's the type of player who was missing for us last season," said Voeller. "He's what you need when things don't go your way. We need a Michael Ballack in top form to achieve our goals."
After five consecutive league victories, Leverkusen come to Bayern in good form. Bayern sacked coach Louis van Gaal last Sunday and Bayer boss Jupp Heynckes is set to take over at the end of the season. Ballack played for Bayern from 2002 until 2006, winning three German league and cup doubles, before moving to English giants Chelsea.
However the Bavarian giants face a trophy-less season having exited both the Champions League and German Cup. They sit fourth, 14 points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund, and are fighting to finish in the top three and thus qualify for the Champions League.
Ballack knows a loss would really hurt his former side come Sunday. "We know we can hurt Bayern with a win," he said. "The team has just lost the starting place for the Champions League, which is lethal for the Bavarians. The whole club is under enormous pressure."
With five games left, Levserkusen are five points behind leaders Dortmund. "Everything is possible," said Ballack. "My team is capable of anything, but we need to win all five games to make something happen."