Tomorrow evening Germany take on second-placed Belgium in Düsseldorf, in what will hopefully be a gala sign-off to what has been an encouraging and highly satisfactory qualifying campaign. While the game is technically meaningless for the Mannschaft there is still plenty of stake for the Red Devils, for whom a win will guarantee a play-off place at the expense of Turkey – and I am sure that although Nationaltrainer Jogi Löw will be ringing the changes, he will give the fixture the respect is deserves an a European Championship qualifier.
There has been much talk in Germany about the make-up of the side, and most of the positions in the starting lineup – in theory at least – should be no-brainers.
In the four man defence I would expect a straight swap between Per Mertesacker and Mats Hummels, while Jérôme Boateng – reported as being not fully fit – should be replaced by Benedikt Höwedes. I would at some stage expect Dennis Aogo to get a run-out, possibly as a late second-half replacement for skipper Philipp Lahm.
How the midfield is going to look is a matter of discussion, with things likely to be settled only when the official starting teamsheets are released. From all of the reports I have read Bastian Schweinsteiger is going to be rested, meaning that both Sami Khedira and the returning Toni Kroos should make a rare start together. While Khedira should switch to the holding position just in front of the defence, the more creative and Kroos will provide the link to the three-man offensive midfield.
The attacking midfield trio will also have a different look: Mesut Özil should return to the starting XI in place of Mario Götze who has been released back to his club side, but should Özil still not be fully fit İlkay Gündoğan could be set to make his international debut. With there being no Götze on the bench, I would like to think that Gündoğan might at the very least get a few minutes out on the park. On the left flank meanwhile we should see André Schürrle come in for Lukas Podolski in what is a straight swap, while on the right we should see Thomas Müller start – although I would hope that Marco Reus might get the opportunity to add to the two minutes of international match time he earned against Turkey on Friday.
Along with Manuel Neuer in goal, the sole striker’s position is probably the easiest one to call with Mario Gómez set to start.
My starting XI would be (4-2-3-1):
Neuer – Boateng/Höwedes, Badstuber, Hummels, Lahm – Khedira, Kroos, Müller, Özil, Schürrle – Gómez. Possible subs: Gündoğan (for Özil), Reus (for Müller), Aogo (for Lahm)
Kicker meanwhile have gone for a slightly different set, up with Mertesacker being retained in defence instead of Holger Badstuber and Kroos playing as part of a midfield quartet in a 4-1-4-1 lineup:
Neuer – Boateng, Mertesacker, Hummels, Lahm – Khedira – Müller, Özil, Kroos, Schürrle – Gómez