Richard Gasquet will play his first Davis Cup singles match in three years when he opens France's quarter-final series in Germany against Florian Mayer.
"It's going to be difficult, Gasquet has played well on clay," said Germany's No. 1 Mayer, who has a 1-1 record against the Frenchman.
In the second singles, France's top-ranked player Gael Monfils takes on Philipp Kohlschreiber.
France captain Guy Forget decided not to use Wimbledon semi-finalist - and conqueror of Roger Federer - Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the singles on the slow outdoor clay court - although Forget still has the option of changing his lineup once play starts.
Tsonga and Michael Llodra will play doubles on Saturday against Christopher Kas and Philipp Petzschner.
The reverse singles are Sunday.
France was the runner-up last year, when it lost to Serbia in the final, while Germany is looking for its first semi-final since 2007. France has a 6-2 record against Germany and has not lost to its neighbor since 1938.
"The possibility of reaching the semifinals is a great motivation," Germany captain Patrik Kuehnen said.
With Llodra more of a doubles specialist, the other three French players are all ranked higher than their German opponents, with Tsonga the lowest-ranked at No. 14.
Mayer is the top German at No. 20. Kohlschreiber is No. 42 and Petzschner No. 77.
"We know that is going to be tough but maybe we can compensate with a good team performance," Kas said.
Forget said the statistics didn't mean much in Davis Cup.
"We could win the first three matches all in four or five very close sets, and then people will say we've won comfortably," he said.
"But if the matches are close, as they have been in the past, then they could very easily go the other way and Germany could be 3-0 ahead by Saturday night. That's why we're taking nothing for granted."
Kohlschreiber reached the final of the grass-court tournament in Halle by beating Monfils. But the last time they played in Davis Cup was last year in Toulon, when Monfils won in three sets in France's 4-1 win.
"I think we can't count that," Kohlschreiber said of his win in Halle. "It's a different surface, and in Davis Cup it's a different kind of pressure.
"We know it's going to be a very tough match, and we know the history. We are going to do our best to change the future - that's the only chance we have, as we cannot change the past."