Germany coach Loew set to play strong hand against Spain


Düsseldorf (Germany) (AFP)

Joachim Loew is keeping his World Cup cards up his sleeve, but the Germany coach is set play a strong hand in Friday's mouth-watering friendly against Spain.

The defending champions begin to finetune their World Cup preparations with high-profile home friendlies against Spain, in Duesseldorf, and Brazil, in Berlin next Tuesday.

Loew revealed Thursday that World Cup winners Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Thomas Mueller, Mesut Ozil and Toni Kroos will all face Spain in a strong line-up, although Liverpool midfielder Emre Can is missing after picking up a back injury while on club duty.

The biggest absence will be Germany captain Manuel Neuer, recovering from a fractured foot, while Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen will start in goal.

There are just three months before the World Cup kicks off in Russia, and while Loew expects both teams to impress on Friday he also knows neither will be keen to put all their wares on display.

"It will be a game in which both teams will want to show what they can do," said Loew.

"However, neither will want to lay their cards on the table.

"If we were to play Spain at the World Cup, it would be a very different game and we know they are a top team in every respect.

"Their best 11 to 13 players come from Atletico, Barca and Real, uniting all these virtues.

"You have Atletico's pressing game, Real's high speed and quick counter-attack with Barca's possession.

"That unites the national team and for me, they are one of the top favorites."

Germany qualified for the World Cup with a perfect record of ten wins.

Spain, under head coach Julen Lopetegui, won nine and drew the other with stars Diego Costa, Isco, Alvaro Morata and David Silva each scoring five goals in qualifiers.

The Spanish have also set up high-profile friendlies this month and host Argentina in Madrid next Tuesday.

The 2010 World Cup winners are unbeaten since Lopetegui took over after Euro 2016, while Germany are on a 21-match unbeaten run.

Morata, plus his Chelsea team-mates Cesc Fabregas and Pedro were left out for the Germany and Argentina friendlies by Lopetegui.

Germany's Tony Kroos could face Real Madrid midfield team-mates Isco and Marco Asensio in Duesseldorf and is relishing the prospect.

"Spain is a special game and a few of my Real team-mates will be involved," said Kroos, who left Bayern Munich for Madrid in 2014.

"We talked about the game in advance, but nothing more.

"We'll need to play well, Spain stands for a certain type of football - a mix of Real and Barca.

"They have lost some players, but brought in others and they are back at the top level."

"I see that every weekend in the (Spanish) league and they are clearly among the World Cup favorites."