World champions Germany welcome England to the Olympiastadion in Berlin for an International Friendly as the pair prepare for this summer’s European Championship in France (7.45pm Saturday live on ITV 1).
England qualified for the Euros with ease, Roy Hodgson’s charges winning all 10 matches to finish on top of a group that contained Switzerland, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and San Marino. It was an impressive campaign for the Three Lions, who went a small way towards making up for their extremely disappointing showing at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where they exited at the group stage. There is a sense of renewed optimism around the camp at present, although many supporters still do not believe the current squad of players is good enough to achieve anything more than a quarter-final spot in France.
Danny Drinkwater’s fine form for surprise Premier League leaders Leicester City has earned him a first senior call-up, with Tottenham Hotspur’s Danny Rose and Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge also included. Captain Wayne Rooney remains absent with a knee injury, though, while Michael Carrick, Kieran Gibbs and Leighton Baines were all left out so former Inter, Liverpool and Fulham boss Hodgson can take a look at some of the other options at his disposal.
Stoke City’s Jack Butland and Southampton’s Fraser Forster are pushing for a start between the sticks in Joe Hart’s absence, while youngsters John Stones, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Ross Barkley and Harry Kane will all be hoping to be involved against such prestigious opponents. Jamie Vardy, who has only four caps to his name to date, is someone who Hodgson may want to have another look at on the international stage, with the likes of Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka and James Milner providing the experience in the 24-man squad.
Germany also reached this summer’s tournament by finishing top of their group, which featured Poland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Georgia and Gibraltar. They are the bookmakers’ favourites to win the Euros for the fourth time this summer, which is no surprise after a look at the players available to manager Joachim Low (pictured). They emerged victorious in the 1972, 1980 and 1996 editions and Germany will indeed take some stopping once again in June and July. With their heady combination of sublime talent and proven winning mentality making them a cut above what much of the rest of the continent has to offer.
Low has selected Liverpool’s Emre Can, Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil and Manchester United’s Bastian Schweinsteiger in his squad to take on England this weekend, with promising Bayer Leverkusen defender Jonathan Tah named in the senior group for the first time. Centre-backs Benedikt Howedes and Jerome Boateng both miss out because of injury problems, but high-profile stars such as Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira, Mario Gotze, Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Marco Reus are all hoping to be involved. Low has spoken of Saturday’s encounter and next week’s clash with Italy being an opportunity for certain players to impress him before he settles on his final 23-man selection for the summer, with a number of places still up for grabs.
With a game against the Netherlands to come next week, Hodgson and England have clearly deliberately chosen tough opponents in the run-up to the Euros. That is a sensible policy if the Three Lions hope to lift the trophy this summer, but it is likely to result in a defeat in Berlin on Saturday night. A 3-1 home win represents a good bet, with the goalscorer market also offering some enticing options – Dele Alli is available at 18/1 to open the scoring and Harry Kane 8/1 to find the back of the net anytime, but the best option could be to back Thomas Muller to grab the game’s first goal.