Germany readies for Euro 2008 qualifier

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Germany will field a strong line-up when they play Slovakia in a Euro 2008 Group D qualifier in Bratislava on Wednesday.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:37 IST
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Germany will field a strong line-up when they play Slovakia in a Euro 2008 Group D qualifier in Bratislava on Wednesday. Coach Joachim Loew rested most of his usual starters for the 2-0 friendly win over Georgia on Saturday and the Germans are expected to be back to near full-strength for the important qualifier. Germany's Euro 2008 qualifying campaign got off to a good start with victories in their opening two games, including a 13-0 thrashing of San Marino. That gave the Germans six points from two matches, but they lost the leadership of the group to the Czech Republic, who beat San Marino 7-0 to go top with nine points from three matches. However, victory over Slovakia in Bratislava on Wednesday would see Germany draw level with the Czechs at the top of Group D, but with a superior goal difference. Slovakia, in turn, also has six points, but have already played three matches. The Germans know that they have a tough task ahead on Wednesday. Brimming with confidence Slovakia, who beat Germany 2-0 in a friendly in Bratislava 13 months ago, are brimming with confidence after their five-one thrashing of Wales in Cardiff on Saturday and their earlier six-one win over Cyprus. "The team from Slovakia did not participate at the World Cup. Nevertheless we know, from the last year, that they can play very dangerously - mainly at home. And that they've got very good strikers - playing in the (German) Bundesliga," said Jens Lehmann, Germany goalkeeper. On Saturday, the Germans cruised to a comfortable 2-0 friendly win over Georgia. Coach Joachim Loew was more concerned about Slovakia than Georgia and rested regulars Miroslav Klose, Philipp Lahm, Bernd Schneider, Torsten Frings and goalkeeper Jens Lehmann. Germany have also not conceded a goal in four consecutive wins since Loew took over from Juergen Klinsmann after the World Cup, scoring 19 at the same time, and they are keen to preserve that record in Bratislava. Germany may have a great attacking record in the last four games, but Loew has problems in defence. Injuries to centre-backs Per Mertesacker and Christoph Metzelder, as well as Robert Huth and Jens Nowotny, have forced Loew to search for alternatives. He moved Hertha Berlin right-back Arne Friedrich to the centre and tried young Manuel Friedrich alongside him against Georgia, but they looked unconvincing. Mertesacker, who had a brilliant return from a 12-week injury break in time for Werder Bremen's Champions League draw against Barcelona last month, was not picked for the squad at Bremen's request. Meanwhile, the Slovaks were outstanding in Cardiff, ripping the Welsh defence apart with some clinical counter-attacking. Coach Dusan Galis is likely to field the same starting line-up and is hoping a forecast for pleasant weather will bring out a capacity crowd in the Slovakian capital Bratislava.

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