Germany will look to return to winning ways as they travel to Windsor Park to face Northern Ireland on Monday.
Germany could be in a spot of bother, following their embarrassing 4-2 defeat to the Netherlands. The 2014 World Cup winners were completely outplayed by the Dutchmen and made a host of defensive errors, ultimately slumping to a defeat.
They will be keen to bounce back to winning ways as they face Northern Ireland at the Windsor Park on Monday. Die Mannschaft are currently second in the Group C standings of the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers, three points ahead of the Netherlands, who have a game in hand. That means a win next week could be imperative for Germany as they aim to secure their qualification for the showpiece event next summer.
Northern Ireland, meanwhile, have had an excellent qualifying campaign. They have, in fact, won all of their four matches so far, winning twice each against Estonia and Belarus. As a result, they are topping Group C with an astonishing 12 points on the board.
Northern Ireland leading the table will surely put pressure on both Netherlands and Germany. But, it will also boost the confidence of the Green and White army as they aim to cause yet another upset next week. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we take a look at both the sides ahead of this important qualifying match on Monday.
Team News & Tactics
Michael O’Neill gave opportunities to a host of young players in the recent win against Luxembourg. But, the 50-year-old is expected to opt for experience against a German side that are likely to go out all guns blazing in search of a desperate victory.
Conor Washington is likely to return to the starting lineup, at the expense of Gavin Whyte. The 27-year-old will operate as the centre-forward and will be looking for his first goal in the Euro 2020 qualifiers. Kyle Lafferty, meanwhile, is set to retain his role on the left wing, with Josh Magennis shifting to the right flank.
However, it’s the defence that could play a critical role as O’Neill is almost guaranteed to employ a deep defensive block. Therefore, commitment and concentration are important, which is why we could expect Jonny Evans and Craig Cathcart to return to the heart of Northern Ireland’s four-man backline.
Norwich City star Jamal Lewis is set to return as well, replacing Shane Ferguson at left-back. Conor McLaughlin, however, is likely to retain his role on the opposite flank. Bailey Peacock-Farrell is the undisputed number one and will start between the sticks.
And finally, in midfield, Paddy McNair will start at the base of the 4-3-3 alongside Corry Evans and captain Steven Davis. These three must work hard if Northern Ireland are to salvage anything from this game.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Peacock-Farrell; McLaughlin, Cathcart, Jonny Evans, Lewis; Corry Evans, McNair, Davis; Magennis, Washington, Lafferty
Joachim Low will be under pressure after the defeat to the Netherlands. And we can expect the German mastermind to make a few necessary changes, one of which will be to revert to a four at the back setup, with Jonathan Tah being the unlucky one to drop out.
That means Matthias Ginter and Niklas Sule will form the central defensive partnership, with Lukas Klostermann returning to his right-back role. Nico Schulz, meanwhile, has injured himself and is likely to be replaced by Marcel Halstenberg. The two RB Leipzig fullbacks will be in charge of providing extensive offensive support.
A 4-3-3 shape looks likely, meaning Joshua Kimmich will operate as the holding midfielder. The Bayern Munich star was excellent in that role against Schalke and Mainz. His ball distribution and work-rate could be equally important against Northern Ireland.
Kimmich will be partnered by Toni Kroos and Kai Havertz, who will make his way into the starting lineup, at the expense of the extra defender in Tah.
In attack, Serge Gnabry and Marco Reus will operate as wingers, looking to provide support to lone striker Timo Werner. The RB Leipzig forward has started the Bundesliga campaign extremely well but failed to score against the Netherlands in the last game. He will have a point to prove in this fixture.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Neuer; Klostermann, Ginter, Sule, Halstenberg; Kroos, Kimmich, Havertz; Gnabry, Werner, Reus
- Germany (15) trail only Russia (17) and Italy (16) as the highest-scoring team in the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, though both the countries have played an extra game.
- Northern Ireland haven’t lost a single game in this calendar year. Their last defeat came against Austria in the UEFA Nations League in November 2018.
- Last time Northern Ireland scored more than three goals in a game was against lowly San Marino way back in September 2017.
- Germany have kept only three clean sheets in their last ten matches. Two of them came against minnows Belarus and Estonia.
- Last time these two sides met was way back in October 2016 in the first round of the World Cup qualifiers. Germany won that game 2-0, through goals from Julian Draxler and Sami Khedira.
Player to Watch
The German defence was borderline miserable in their game against the Netherlands. And after a disappointing defeat, the former World champions surely can’t afford any more defensive mishaps, especially against a Northern Ireland side, who have won all four of their matches.
Sule, in that regard, will play a key role. Especially with Tah likely out, the Bayern Munich defender will be tasked with the responsibility of leading the German defence. He must make sure that the likes of Washington and Lafferty don’t get too much time on the ball.
But most importantly, a good performance in front of a desperate Low could go a long way in helping Sule establish himself as a crucial part of the German backline for the upcoming Euro 2020.
Northern Ireland 1-3 Germany
Northern Ireland have the home advantage as well as the confidence, which should help them against Germany. But, they might just be overwhelmed due to the overall quality of their opposition. We expect the visitors to seal a hard-fought 3-1 win in this one.