Germany will be hoping to kickstart 2019 with a bang when they welcome Serbia to Volkswagen Park in Wolfsburg on Wednesday night.
International football returns after nearly half a year, and in Europe, the qualifiers for next year’s UEFA European Championship are set to resume. Before that, however, Germany will be looking to warm up with a strong showing, when Serbia pay them a visit at the Volkswagen Park in Wolfsburg on Wednesday.
2018 was a year to forget for the German national side after suffering a fall from grace at the FIFA World Cup. Die Mannschaft were shockingly booted out of Russia 2018 in the group stage and their form since then has continued to remain inconsistent, having also been relegated from UEFA Nations League A.
Serbia, on the other hand, were largely consistent under the tutelage of Mladen Krstajic, although they ought to have done better at the World Cup. Post the tournament in Russia though, the Orlovi have done exceedingly well, even booking their place in the UEFA Nations League B after topping their group in League C.
The two teams last locked horns at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, with Serbia running out shock 1-0 winners thanks to Milan Jovanovic’s 38th minute effort. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Controversy has been the name of the game for the German national team over the last year or so. Question marks were first asked when Leroy Sane was inexplicably overlooked for the World Cup after a fantastic season with Manchester City. Joachim Low has now raised eyebrows with his latest squad selection as well.
Bayern Munich trio Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Thomas Muller might have played for the last time for Germany, or at least till Low is the head coach. The national team boss has indicated that the three players will not be picked, perhaps with a view to transition to a younger, more dynamic side for the future.
To that end, major changes are afoot in defence, with Antonio Rudiger and Matthias Ginter now the senior figures at the back. Rudiger ought to start in the back-three on Wednesday, with Ginter being preserved for the UEFA Euro qualifier against Netherlands.
The Chelsea defender should be accompanied by Niklas Sule and Jonathan Tah in the three-man defensive line that is likely to provide cover to Manuel Neuer, who remains the first-choice goalkeeper. The two wing-backs are likely to be Nico Schulz and Lukas Klostermann, with the latter making his senior debut for Germany.
Meanwhile, Joshua Kimmich will screen the backline, having become a midfield mainstay post the World Cup. Toni Kroos will be the creative supremo for the hosts, with the attack being manned by the pacy trio of Leroy Sane, Serge Gnabry and Timo Werner.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Neuer; Tah, Rudiger, Sule; Klostermann, Kimmich, Kroos, Schulz; Gnabry, Werner, Sane
Mladen Krstajic has made a number of changes to the squad that he picked for the previous set of international fixtures. But, the major absentee for Serbia will be veteran midfielder Nemanja Matic, who has had to pull out of the squad due to injury.
In his stead, Torino midfielder Sasa Lukic is likely to be Nemanja Maksimovic’s partner in the middle of the park, although Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is also an alternative. At the back, the young central defensive pairing of Nikola Milenkovic and Milos Veljkovic will aim to continue the frustrations for Germany.
Veteran duo Aleksandar Kolarov and Antonio Rukavina ought to be the full-back pairing, while Predrag Rajkovic should man the Serbian goal. The onus though, will be on the in-form attacking duo of Dusan Tadic and Luka Jovic.
Tadic has found a new lease of life since moving to Ajax last summer, while Jovic has been one of the most prolific players in Bundesliga this season. The latter is likely to pip Aleksandar Mitrovic to the sole striker’s spot, while Tadic should be deployed on the right flank.
Jovic’s club teammate Filip Kostic is expected to start on the opposite flank, while Adem Ljajic will be the creator-in-chief for the visitors.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Rajkovic; Rukavina, Milenkovic, Veljkovic, Kolarov; Maksimovic, Lukic; Tadic, Ljajic, Kostic; Jovic
- The two sides have previously met 28 times, with Germany leading the head-to-head record with 16 wins (D4 L8).
- Serbia are unbeaten since their 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign ended in the group stage, having won four of their six games since then (D2).
- Germany, on the other hand, have managed to win just three of their last nine fixtures (D2 L4).
- But, Germany are unbeaten in their last five games at home, winning three and drawing twice in the process.
- Serge Gnabry has scored four goals in five Germany appearances, averaging a goal every 87 minutes he has played.
Player to Watch
2018-19 has been an incredible season for Luka Jovic so far, with the young Serbian striker leading the line for Eintracht Frankfurt with aplomb. In fact, it his exploits, in addition to those of Sebastien Haller and Ante Rebic, that see Frankfurt being firmly in the race for a top four finish.
A record of 22 goals and 7 assists so far is nothing short of remarkable for a 21-year-old, which explains why Chelsea and Barcelona are reportedly exploring the possibility of signing him. But, the young striker is yet to establish himself on the international scene, with Aleksandar Mitrovic being the firm first-choice so far.
The latest international break, however, will provide him the perfect opportunity to usurp Mitrovic, considering how poor his senior teammate has been lately for Fulham. A golden opportunity against a stuttering Germany side beckons, and it remains to be seen if Jovic can seize it.
Germany 2-1 Serbia
The road to recovery has not begun well for Germany, having suffered further humiliation in the UEFA Nations League. But, the first international break of 2019 gives the former world champions the chance to start with a clean slate once again, seeing as how the level of expectations will have declined.
Serbia, though, are a side that are in a good moment, having coasted through their Nations League group. The Orlovi are also not a side that easily concedes a raft of opportunities and it goes without saying that the hosts will have to work hard to carve out the openings.
The Hard Tackle though, predicts Joachim Low’s men to rise to the occasion and get back to winning ways, albeit with a hard-fought 2-1 win that should see them start 2019 on a positive note.