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 declined 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 international 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.
His new captain Toni Kroos emphasised the different levels of fitness within the squad, due to the blurred lines between where the previous season starts and the new one begins in Europe.
“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.
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 Durban semi-final.
A decade later, Loew has rested several Bayern stars including usual national 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, either Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp or Arsenal’s Bernd Leno will be between the posts.
Kroos will captain Germany and is set to partner Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan in central midfield.
Up front, new Bayern recruit Leroy Sane, who joined from Manchester City in July, could make his first international appearance since suffering a knee injury last August.
He is likely to play alongside new Chelsea striker Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, who is tipped to join Frank Lampard’s Blues in the coming days.
In defence, Atalanta’s Robin Gosens is set to make his debut at left-back alongside a back-three with Paris Saint Germain’s Thilo Kehrer on the other flank.
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