BERLIN – Joachim Loew’s world champions Germany head to Prague for Friday’s World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic focused on preserving their 100 percent record.
The match is Germany’s first international of a season which finishes with the World Cup final.
Having won all six qualifiers so far in Group C, victory at Prague’s Eden Arena will leave Germany on the verge of confirming their place at Russia 2018 before hosting Norway in Stuttgart on Monday, when they could qualify if results elsewhere go there way.
Winger Serge Gnabry is out of both games with an ankle injury, while Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira sat out Wednesday’s training with a knee knock.
Few German fans will need reminding that the team’s last heavy defeat in qualifiers came ten years ago in Prague when Loew’s men were humbled 3-0.
However, the Czech Republic were beaten by the same scoreline when the sides met in Hamburg last October with two goals by Thomas Mueller.
“We know the Czechs from the first game, they like to start at a high pace, but we dealt with that well, scoring two second-half goals,” said Germany’s left-back Jonas Hector.
“We’ve won all of our qualifiers so far and we want to keep that record.”
Competition for places is fierce with head coach Loew having called up 17 of the squad which won the Confederations Cup in July and named just seven World Cup winners.
“We got what we wanted from the Confed Cup, the chance to broaden our group of players and give others a rest,” said team manager Oliver Bierhoff.
“It was important to give players like Toni Kroos or Sami Khedira more of a break, they remain a fundamental part of the team and they will come back in which will give us added strength.”
World Cup-winners Thomas Mueller, Kroos, Mats Hummels, Mesut Ozil and Khedira, if he is fit, are likely to return to the starting line-up after missing the Confed Cup triumph.
Mueller will be looking to blow off his frustration at Bayern Munich, having been left on the bench by Carlo Ancelotti until the final 17 minutes of Saturday’s 2-0 win at Werder Bremen.
“Thomas Mueller is one of a kind, he is a big name for us,” said Bierhoff.
“It can happen that one doesn’t play, I just hope that Bayern realise he is an identity figure for people who come to the stadium.
“A striker always needs some support, but he is quite relaxed when he is with us.”
© Agence France-Presse
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