Germany prepare to host Azerbaijan on Sunday in their last match in Group C of the FIFA World Cup European Qualifiers
Germany have already secured qualification into the Group Stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup to be held in Russia with a 3-1 win over Northern Ireland on Thursday. With qualification accomplished, Joachim Low will be looking to give some relatively younger players a run out on Sunday.
Azerbaijan on the other hand, have seen their early good run followed by a rut of sorts, with 5 losses in the last 6 group matches after going the first three games undefeated. But, they still stand a small chance of finishing third in their group.
And while that will not fetch them any chance to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, it could yet be a satisfying finish in a group that contains Germany, Northern Ireland, Czech Republic, Norway and San Marino.
The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the fixture.
Team News & Tactics
The Germans will be without Real Madrid superstar Toni Kroos for their final qualifying matchup against Azerbaijan, which is the only confirmed injury update ahead of the tie. Joachim Low has already confirmed that there will be changes for the game in order to test some new combinations and other reasons.
We could very well see the return of a 3-man backline, with the entire defence revamped. Julian Brandt is likely to come in, in what is expected to be a 3-5-2 formation or something similar to it. Bernd Leno could also be given an opportunity to guard the goal.
Other than that, there are expected to be changes elsewhere as well. But, it is likely to be down to Low’s decision on the formation he wishes to use and the players he deems are fit enough for the match.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Leno; Rudiger, Mustafi, Sule; Kimmich, Can, Goretzka, Sane; Draxler, Brandt; Stindl
Robert Prosinecki will be disappointed by the recent results and is also likely to change a few personnel before the game. However, the nation would be looking to spring up a surprise or two and finish the qualification campaign on a high.
Gara Garayev is likely to come into the lineup, with Rahid Amirguliev to make way in case the manager does bring in the defensive midfielder. Ramil Sheydaev is also likely to be given a chance to impress upfront in place of Ruslan Gurbanov.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Agaev; Medvedev, Sadygov, Guseynov, Khalilzade; Richard, Garayev; Izmailov, Aleskerov, Madatov; Sheydaev
1. Germany have won 16 of their last 26 qualifier matches while also managing to keep a clean sheet.
2. Die Mannschaft have also scored a staggering 30 goals in the 9 group matches so far, conceding just 3 in the process.
3. In the head-to-head stats, Germany have recorded five wins out of five previous matchups against Azerbaijan.
4. Germany are on a 18-match unbeaten run and will be looking to stretch it to their 19th game.
5. Leon Goretzka is on a roll, with 3 goals and an assist in 4 matches thus far in the World Cup qualifiers.
Player To Watch
All eyes will again be on the Schalke midfielder as Germany take the field against Azerbaijan. The playmaker has grown in stature with every passing game and with the kind of interest he has been generating at the club level, it would be interesting to see how he performs on Sunday.
Germany 5-1 Azerbaijan
Expect a flurry of goals from the home side, who will not take the game lightly despite having already qualified for the World Cup. However, with Low expected to ring in the changes, we could see the Milli nick in a goal on the day.
We can bank on a comfortable win for Azerbaijan but a clean sheet is in doubt, especially if the manager does change majority of the defence.