World champions Germany will be without new captain Bastian Schweinsteiger as well as key midfielders Sami Khedira and Marco Reus for their upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers against Poland and Ireland.
Schweinsteiger, who was named captain in the wake of Philipp Lahm's retirement after the World Cup, is struggling with a tendon problem in his knee. The 30-year-old Bayern Munich midfielder has yet to feature for club or country this season.
Real Madrid’s Khedira – Schweinsteiger’s central midfield partner for much of the World Cup – also misses out on Saturday week’s game in Warsaw because of injury.
Reus damaged ankle ligaments in Germany's opening Group D win over Scotland in Dortmund last month. The Borussia Dortmund player has not recovered in time for the game in Poland or the home match against Ireland in Gelsenkirchen on October 14th.
“We must be aware that even for world champions, qualification for the European Championships isn’t guaranteed,” Germany manager Joachim Löw said yesterday.
“In the games against Poland and Ireland we have the opportunity to pull away from some of our rivals so these two matches are very important for us going forward. We want to take this chance.”
Sixteen of the 20-man squad named yesterday were at the World Cup in Brazil but Löw still expects his side to be tested by Ireland.
“The Irish have a new coach in Martin O’Neill,” the 54-year-old said. “Like us, they’ve started with a win in qualification.
"We know that it can be very unpleasant to play against them. A lot of them play in the Premier League. They're strong and never give up.
“The football culture of the Irish fills me with enthusiasm - their passion, their unconditional devotion and their football heart. I’m expecting a very intense game and I’m looking forward to the atmosphere in Gelsenkirchen.”
In attack, record goalscorer Miroslav Klose has retired and Fiorentina striker Mario Gomez is also injured. Germany still have plenty of options, however, in the shape of Bayern Munich's Thomas Müller, Chelsea's Andre Schürrle and World Cup-winning goalscorer Mario Götze. Arsenal's Mesut Ozil returns after missing the Scotland game.
Löw added further alternatives yesterday by recalling the in-form Borussia Monchengladbach attacker
and calling up Bayer Leverkusen’s
for the first time. The 24-year-old has impressed in the Bundesliga and the
this season, scoring three goals and making five more in 11 appearances in all competitions.
With Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski awaiting his side in Poland, Löw will be relieved that Borussia Dortmund centre back Mats Hummels has made a full recovery from injury.
Last month Germany looked extremely shaky in defence when they lost 4-2 at home to Argentina in a repeat of the World Cup final. Left-back Erik Durm, in particular, endured a torrid time up against Angel Di Maria in that friendly.
There were worrying signs in the 2-1 win over Scotland too, when Hoffenheim's Sebastian Rudy was thrown in at right-back for just his third cap.
Germany should still travel to Poland with confidence, however, having never lost to their neighbours in 18 games. GERMANY SQUAD (to face Poland and Republic of Ireland) – Goalkeepers: Neuer (Bayern Munich), Weidenfeller (Borussia Dortmund), Zieler (Hannover 96); Defenders: Boateng (Bayern Munich), Durm (Borussia Dortmund), Ginter (Borussia Dortmund), Hummels( Borussia rtmund), Mustafi (Valencia), Rüdiger (Stuttgart), Rudy (Hoffenheim); Midfielders/Forwards: Bellarabi (Bayer Leverkusen), Draxler (Schalke), Kramer (Borussia Monchengladbach), Kroos (Real Madrid) Müller (Bayern Munich), Podolski (Arsenal), Schürrle (Chelsea), Götze (Bayern Munich), Ozil (Arsenal), Kruse (Borussia Monchengladbach).