Germany turn to youth in Slovakia Euro tune-up

Berlin (AFP) – World champions Germany are set to blood a crop of rising stars in Sunday’s friendly at home to Slovakia as head coach Joachim Loew fine-tunes his Euro 2016 squad.

Loew purposefully chose Slovakia, who will make their debut at a European championships in France, as they are expected to play in a similar style to Germany’s Group C opponents Ukraine, Poland and Northern Ireland.

Slovakia “will try to knock us out of our rhythm” in Augsburg, according to Loew, who wants to see how some of the new blood in the Germany squad cope with senior football.

Uncapped Joshua Kimmich of Bayern Munich, Dortmund’s Julian Weigl, Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt and Schalke’s Leroy Sane, none of whom have yet turned 21, are all set to make their debuts.

The fleet-footed Sane is a star in the making having been linked to both Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

The quartet, who have all been outstanding for their respective clubs this season, are set to get at least 45 minutes to impress in Augsburg.

“They are all able to compete at the required level and are in the extended squad with the idea that they can do the job,” insisted Loew.

This is the first of two pre-Euro 2016 friendlies for the Germans who host Hungary in Gelsenkirchen next Saturday.

Loew’s charges were in erratic form in March as they threw away a two-goal lead in their 3-2 defeat to England in Berlin, then hammered a lacklustre Italy 4-1 four days later in Munich. 

This is Loew’s last chance to look at certain options before finalising his 23-man squad.

Four names must be cut from Germany’s 27-strong current group by midnight next Tuesday.

Of the 14 World Cup winners in his squad, nine will be missing.

Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos will be involved in the Champions League final on Saturday, while Lukas Podolski scored Galatasaray’s goal in their 1-0 win over Fenerbahce on Thursday in the Turkish Cup final.

Mats Hummels and Bastian Schweinsteiger are both recovering from injury.

Sami Khedira and Mario Goetze, who scored in Germany’s 7-0 win over their Under-20 team in a practice game on Thursday, are lacking match fitness.

First-choice stars Thomas Mueller and Mesut Ozil will both be rested.

Germany’s world-class goalkeeper Manuel Neuer will also sit the Slovakia test out with Bayer Leverkusen’s Bernd Leno to make his debut.

Loew will not take anyone to France who is carrying an injury, “I will not take any chances”, leaving the likes of Hummels and Schweinsteiger to prove their fitness in training.

Jan Kozak’s Slovakia, who face Wales, England and Russia in Group B, drew with Latvia and the Republic of Ireland in their March friendlies.

Napoli’s Marek Hamsik is the key to the Slovakian midfield, while 34-year-old Robert Vittek, his country’s all-time top-scorer, and Viktoria Plzen’s Michal Duris are battling for the striker berth.

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