Stars back as Loew looks to brush off Swiss shock

31 May 2012 08:16

Germany are looking to avoid their third straight friendly defeat and pick up a much-needed pre-Euro 2012 confidence booster in Thursday's warm-up game against Israel in Leipzig.

Despite their billing amongst the pre-tournament favourites, a second string German side were beaten 5-3 by Switzerland last Saturday in Basel as their defence showed some glaring weaknesses, which coach Joachim Loew needs to fix against Israel.

"I see the game as a test and we have the chance to try a few things out," said Loew with Germany set to arrive at their Euro 2012 base in Gdansk on Monday.

"A good result would be desirable to give us a boost, but it will be really important next week in Poland."

Loew will welcome back his Bayern Munich stars including captain Philipp Lahm, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, defenders Holger Badstuber, Jerome Boateng, plus midfielders Toni Kroos and Thomas Mueller.

Vice-captain Bastian Schweinsteiger is an injury doubt after he strained a calf muscle in Bayern Munich's Champions League defeat to Chelsea on May 19.

Having also lost 2-1 to France in Bremen last February, Germany need to avoid a third defeat and see off Israel with their Euro campaign set to start on June 9 against Portugal in Lviv, Ukraine.

The Germans have never lost to Israel in three meetings between the two nations and current striker Miroslav Klose netted a hat-trick when the teams last met in 2002 as Germany ran out 7-1 winners.

But after Saturday's blunder in Basel, where the defence leaked five goals, Loew's team have to answer some serious questions about their defence.

The key area is at centre-back where Arsenal's Per Mertesacker is struggling for match fitness after three months out with an ankle injury and his partner Mats Hummels failed to deal with the Swiss attack.

Nothing less than a convincing victory will calm a few nerves and Lahm is expected to lead the side in Leipzig.

Loew has said he will use the final friendly to decide whether to play his captain at left or right-back at the tournament.

The Germans are not the only Group B sides to have recent poor form: Holland, who Germany play on June 13 in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and Denmark, Germany's opponents on June 17 in Lviv, both lost friendlies last weekend.

Israel, who have not qualified for Euro 2012, were beaten 2-1 by the Czech Republic over the weekend, their fifth loss in six outings.

Kaiserslautern striker Itay Shechter is expected to lead Israel's attack with five goals in 13 games, alongside former Chelsea striker Ben Sahar.

Source: AFP