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Germany experiment with new-look line-up behind closed doors against Spain

Berlin (AFP) – Germany host Spain on Thursday in the first international behind closed doors in the German FA’s history with head coach Joachim Loew set to name an experimental new-look side missing a cluster of Bayern Munich stars.

In normal times, a sell-out crowd of around 50,000 would be expected at Stuttgart’s Mercedes-Benz-Arena for a home international against Spain.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Germany’s first international for nearly 10 months must be played behind closed doors.

The German FA’s request to allow a hand-picked crowd of 500 to watch the Nations League match was rejected by European football’s governing body UEFA.

“A traditional duel between two great football nations in front of empty stands — that hurts,” admitted German FA president Fritz Keller.

Germany will play eight internationals between now and November in a tight schedule and Loew wants to manage his players’ workload ahead of next year’s postponed Euro 2020 finals.

“I feel an extreme sense of responsibility for the players,” admitted Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning coach.

“This year we won’t always be able to play with a well-organised team.

“The season will be tough, especially for the national team (players) and you have to be considerate so that they stay healthy.”

His new captain Toni Kroos emphasised the different levels of fitness within the squad.

“Some of us have already been training for a month, some have come back from holidays chilled out – I am one of them – so we’ve all been thrown in together,” said the Real Madrid midfielder.

“The games will be packed in this season and at the end of it, we’re back into a tournamment,” Kroos added, with one eye on next summer’s Euros. 

Kroos is the only German survivor from the last competitive match against Spain at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa when a Carles Puyol strike condemned Germany to a 1-0 defeat in the semi-final in Durban.

Loew says Spain are no longer the force which “mercilessly” swept opponents aside to win both 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 titles, but warned of the Spaniards “dangerous crosses”, “good shooting from distance” and “very good pressing”. 

Loew has rested several Bayern stars including his first-choice captain Manuel Neuer, Serge Gnabry, Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka after they won the Champions League final 10 days ago in Lisbon.

In Neuer’s absence, and with Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen recovering from knee surgery, Loew said Wednesday that Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp will start.

Kroos will be captain and will have Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan in central midfield with him.

Bayern’s new winger Leroy Sane, who joined from Manchester City in July, will make his first international appearance since suffering a knee injury last August, and his Munich team-mate Niklas Suele starts in defence.

Atalanta’s Robin Gosens will make his debut at left-back alongside a back-three with Paris Saint Germain’s Thilo Kehrer starting on the other flank, Loew confirmed.

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