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Loew tells Germany stars to knuckle down to win Nations League group

Berlin (AFP) – Germany head coach Joachim Loew has told his stars to knuckle down and take control of their Nations League group, starting against Ukraine on Saturday, after three draws and just one win in their mediocre campaign so far.

The three-time European champions host Ukraine in Leipzig on Saturday, then face Spain in Seville on Tuesday.

Victories in both of their final two Nations League games would see Germany win the group.

“We must definitely use both games, and our matches in March, to find our game and establish ourselves,” said Loew, with one eye on next June’s Euro 2020 finals.

Germany squeezed past a determined Ukraine side with a 2-1 win in Kiev last month.

Both Germany and Ukraine are level on six points, one behind group leaders Spain, who face bottom side Switzerland in Basel on Saturday.

Loew is wary of a dogged Ukrainian side coached by former Chelsea striker Andriy Shevchenko, who have already beaten Spain and Switzerland in the group.

“We will have to overcome a lot of resistance and have extremely good solutions ready if we want to hold our own against Ukraine,” Loew said on Friday.

Germany are unbeaten in their last 11 games, but the statistic masks defensive problems, exposed by last month’s 3-3 draws against both Switzerland and in a friendly with Turkey.

In their Nations League games so far, Germany surrendered the lead three times to draw with Spain and twice against the Swiss. 

Bayern Munich wingers Serge Gnarby and Leroy Sane are set to play either side of Chelsea striker Timo Werner.

Manuel Neuer captains the side and will equal Sepp Maier’s Germany record of 95 appearances for a goalkeeper.

With Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos suspended, Leon Goretzka is set to partner Ilkay Gundogan in the defensive midfield.

Burly Bayern defender Niklas Suele is also set to play despite training on Tuesday for the first time since testing positive for the coronavirus ten days ago.

“He made a good impression in training and you can assume that he will play,” Loew added.

Despite this season’s congested fixture list due to the coronavirus pandemic, Loew says he sees the value of the Nations League and is demanding two final performances.

“The competition has a certain importance and if we beat Ukraine, we would be in a good position” before the final match against Spain, added Loew. 

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