Bayern captain Philipp Lahm on verge of 500th appearance

BERLIN (AP) After overcoming an injury scare this week, Philipp Lahm is set to make his 500th appearance for Bayern Munich.

Lahm limped off after getting a knock to his knee in a training session on Monday, but the 33-year-old defender was given the all-clear shortly afterward.

''Everything's in order,'' Lahm said Wednesday.

On Saturday at home against Schalke, the World Cup winner can equal the mark of 500 appearances set by former teammate Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Only five outfield players have more at Bayern: Gerd Mueller (568 competitive games), Georg ''Katsche'' Schwarzenbeck (549), Klaus Augenthaler (545), Franz Beckenbauer (534) and Bernd Duernberger (501). Goalkeeper Oliver Kahn leads the overall list with 632 games for Bayern.

''He is an example and captain of the team. I'm happy to be able to work with him,'' Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti said Friday.

The Italian declined to say whether Lahm will play Saturday and indicated rotations are likely with games every three or four days over the next two weeks. Bayern faces Schalke, Ingolstadt and Hertha Berlin in the league, Wolfsburg in the German Cup, and Arsenal in the Champions League.

''We're happy that it finally really gets going next week,'' Lahm said of the congested schedule.

Despite his small stature and soft-spoken manner, Lahm has long earned respect through his hard work, drive to win, clean tackling and unassuming authority. He leads by example.

Former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, Ancelotti's predecessor at Bayern, has been effusive in his praise of the player, previously describing him as ''an absolute legend and the most intelligent player that I ever coached in my career.''

It was Guardiola who sought to capitalize on Lahm's intelligence by playing the right back in midfield. Many were surprised at the time but Lahm quickly settled into the position and Bayern benefited from his greater influence on the game.

Most fans felt Lahm's decision to retire from the national team after winning the World Cup in 2014 was premature. There had been speculation he may retire at of the season to take an administrative role at Bayern but the issue has been set aside for now.

Lahm made his Bayern debut as a substitute in injury time of a meaningless Champions League game against Lens in November 2002, two days after his 19th birthday. Bayern was already eliminated and last in the group.

Lahm, who joined Bayern when he was 11, had to wait another three years for his next appearance for the club, coming on for France defender Bixente Lizarazu in a late come-from-behind 2-1 league win at Arminia Bielefeld in November 2005. Bayern had sent him to Stuttgart to gain Bundesliga experience in the meantime, while a serious knee injury also delayed his return.

But he's been a fixture at Bayern ever since, going on to make 319 Bundesliga appearances (12 goals, 45 assists), and helping the side to seven league titles. Only Kahn, Schweinsteiger and Mehmet Scholl have more at Bayern, though Lahm can overtake them if he fulfills his contract to 2018.

Lahm has won almost as many titles as his 24 yellow cards - a remarkably low figure for a defender. Including the World Cup with Germany, Lahm has 21 titles so far.

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