World champions Germany square off with a young Czech Republic side this Saturday at the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg. Die Mannschaft made a winning start to their World Cup 2018 qualifying campaign with a comfortable 3-0 win in Norway. A brace from Thomas Müller and a first international goal for Joshua Kimmich sealed 3 points for Joachim Löw's side. The Czech Republic, on the other hand, were held to a goalless draw at home by Northern Ireland. Germany leads Group C ahead of Azerbaijan on superior goal difference while the Czechs sit 3rd in the standings.
Germany leads the head-to-head with 4 wins in 6 matches played between the 2 sides. The Czechs have won the remaining 2 matches, last of which came in October 2007 when Czech Republic defeated Germany 3-0 in Munich in the UEFA Euro 2008 qualifiers. Till date, Czech Republic remains the last team to win a qualifier in Germany.
Germany have been handed a relatively easy group, with Czech Republic, Norway and Northern Ireland being the closest competitors. Considering the quality of players at Germany's disposal, it should be a straightforward task for the hosts to top Group C. While coach Joachim Löw considers Czech Republic as Germany's strongest opponent in the group, he also expects his side to come away with 3 points against the Czechs. And the gulf in class between the two sides is enough to justify Löw's faith on his players.
Ilkay Gundogan is back in the team following his recovery from a knee injury. Gundogan last played for Germany against France in November 2015 on the fateful night of the Paris terror attacks. Jerome Boateng also makes his way back into the squad after missing matches against Finland and Norway last month. Mario Gomez has withdrawn from the squad due to a hardened buttock muscle and no replacement has been called up for him. Bayer Leverkusen winger Karim Bellarabi and Dortmund duo Marco Reus and Andre Schurrle are not included in the squad due to injuries.
The Czech Republic were the last team to beat Germany in a qualifying match 9 years ago. But the visitors' current squad is not as strong as that particular group of players was. Long-serving goalkeeper Petr Cech retired from international duty after a disappointing Euro 2016 campaign. With Tomas Rosicky not in the scene, Czech Republic has a young but inexperienced squad. Coach Karel Jarolim, who replaced Pavel Vrba in July, acknowledges the herculean task he has on his hands and will be under no illusion regarding his teams' chances against the mighty Germans. If Germany finally starts converting pressure into goals, something the hosts have failed to do in recent times, then it could well be a very long night for the visitors.
Tomas Rosicky was not picked up in the squad due to injury. Another influential player, midfielder Vladimir Darida, has been left out after undergoing an ankle surgery. Jarolim could make 2 changes to the eleven that started against Northern Ireland last month by drafting in defender Tomas Sivok and midfielder Tomas Horava in place of Michal Kadlec and an injured Vladimir Darida. Sampdoria’s 20-year-old striker Patrik Schick could be in line to win just his second international cap.
Germany starting (4-2-3-1): Neuer(C); Kimmich, Boateng, Hummels, Hector; Khedira, Kroos; Müller, Özil, Draxler; Götze
Czech Republic (4-4-2): Vaclik; Kaderabek, Suchy, Sivok(C), Novak; Skalak, Horava, Pavelka, Krejci; Kadlec, Skoda
Bayern Munich hitman Thomas Müller starred in the win over Norway with a double and set up his club mate Joshua Kimmich for his first international goal. The 27-year-old Bayern star has yet to open his account in the Bundesliga this season but coach Joachim Löw would be more than happy if he rather puts on his scoring boots for the national team.
The hosts should seal a comfortable win in Hamburg. The Czechs lack teeth in their attack and it should be a busy night for their rearguard against a potent Germany attack.
You can watch the match Live on SONY SIX and SONY SIX HD on Sunday, 9 October at 00:15 IST
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