As the Mannschaft take their first steps on the road to Brazil 2014, here we are with our first short pre-match team news bulletin.
Usually Nationaltrainer Jogi Löw springs the odd surprise just prior to a match, but this time – possibly fearing leaks and insider mole action – has revealed that we are going to see (yet another) new look to the back four.
Skipper Philipp Lahm is back into the side after being rested in last month’s friendly against Argentina and set to play in his favourite right-sided position in place of FC Bayern team mate Jérôme Boateng – which means that Borussia Dortmund’s Marcel Schmelzer is lined up to start at left-back.
This to me is something of a surprise: while Schmelzer was arguably one of the better players against the Albiceleste, he has not really impressed in his previous outings for the national team. Clearly the calibre of the opponent has given Löw more scope, and unless Schmelzer really shines we could see Boateng back for next week’s second part of the double header against Austria, with Lahm returning to the left.
The centre of defence is all set to see Mats Hummels and Holger Badstuber continuing to build on their burgeoning partnership, but we also cannot rule out the return of Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker – a long-time favourite of the Nationaltrainer.
Bastian Schweinsteiger’s absence through injury means a change in the two man defensive midfield. Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos are looking the likely contenders, but both Lars Bender and İlkay Gündoğan are decent outside bets. One might argue that if Schmelzer is good enough to start, then surely one of these two is capable of lining up alongside the redoubtable Khedira.
As has become the case in recent years, there is an abundance of available talent in the offensive midfield, with Thomas Müller – back in goalscoring form for Bayern – and Mesut Özil being shoo-ins. The real questions are over who will start out on the left – will it be the impressive Marco Reus, the sprightly André Schürrle or the man we all wanted out during the Euros, Lukas Podolski? Both my head and heart agree on Reus – the perfect “false nine” – to start with Schürrle perhaps making a late “Joker” appearance, but given his status as another Löw favourite we can never rule out Podolski, whose goal for Arsenal at the weekend might well have tipped the balance.
Up front, there can only be one. With the injury to Mario Gómez, the veteran Miroslav Klose has sole ownership of the position up front, and will be looking to creep closer to Gerd Müller’s goalscoring record. Klose scored in both matches against the Faroes during the Euro 2004 qualifying campaign, and will be looking to add to his tally in Hannover.
So, here’s my predicted starting eleven…
Neuer – Lahm (c), Hummels, Badstuber, Schmelzer – Khedira, Kroos – Müller, Özil, Reus – Klose
As usual, there will be the minute-by-minute match report tomorrow evening, followed by the more in-depth analysis and player ratings. Here’s to a good start to another successful campaign!