Germany will be aiming to end the current international break on a strong note when they face off against North Macedonia on Wednesday night.

Germany will be hoping to make it three wins in three games in their FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign when they play hosts to North Macedonia in a Group J encounter at the MSV-Arena in Duisburg this midweek.

Germany, having ended the last year on a disastrous note with a humiliating defeat to Spain, have gotten back to winning ways, having picked up an impressive 3-0 win over Iceland in their first qualifier. That was followed by a 1-0 win over Romania, which has put Die Mannschaft at the top of the group, ahead of second-placed Armenia on goal difference.

North Macedonia, meanwhile, started off their qualifying journey with a 3-2 defeat to Romania, following that up with a 5-0 thrashing of Liechtenstein, which put them in third place in Group J. However, on Wednesday, Igor Anjelovski’s men will be up against one of the biggest teams in the world and will have to play out of their skins to stand a chance of coming away with something.

This will be the first time ever that Germany face off against North Macedonia and ahead of their encounter in Duisburg, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Germany

There are no fresh roster concerns for Joachim Low ahead of Wednesday’s game apart from the quartet of Marcel Halstenberg, Jonas Hoffman, Toni Kroos and Niklas Sule all of whom have already withdrawn from the squad and returned to their respective clubs. Full-back Robin Gosens is a doubt for the game though.

Low, speaking on the eve of the game, claimed that he will keep the changes to a minimum against North Macedonia, despite having played the same lineup for two games in a row. But the Germany manager did confirm one major change with Marc-Andre ter Stegen set to start in goal in place of captain Manuel Neuer.

Lukas Klostermann ought to continue at right-back while Matthias Ginter and Antonio Rudiger also keep hold of their places at centre-back. There could potentially be one change made to the backline though with Emre Can making way for Philipp Max.

Leon Goretzka could be given a breather considering as he has been carrying a knock. This should open up a place for Florian Neuhaus to start in midfield alongside Joshua Kimmich and Ilkay Gundogan, who will be leading the team in the absence of Neuer on Wednesday.

Kai Havertz, who has shown some form with the national team, should continue on the right while Serge Gnabry should start again as the false-nine after his match-winning display against Romania. Leroy Sane could, however, drop out of the side, with Timo Werner in line for an opportunity against North Macedonia.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Klosterman, Ginter, Rudiger, Max; Neuhaus, Kimmich, Gundogan; Havertz, Gnabry, Werner

North Macedonia

Ivan Trichkowski, Gjoko Zajkov and Tihomir Kostadinov are the only three absentees for North Macedonia having already withdrawn from the squad due to injury and coronavirus in the case of the latter two. Having switched to a 4-4-2 formation for the game against Liechtenstein, the visitors could revert to the 3-5-2 against the Germans.

In goal, Stole Dimitrievski could be in for a busy night in Duisburg. He will need all the protection he can get from the three-man defensive unit comprising of Visar Musliu, Egzon Bejtulai and Kire Ristevski. Stefan Ristovski and Leeds United’s Ezgjan Alioski ought to be the two wing-backs on the right and left sides respectively.

Boban Nikolov, who did not start against Liechtenstein, ought to return at the base of the North Macedonian midfield where he will be supported by Napoli’s Eljif Elmas and Enis Bardhi, with the duo also tasked with providing the attacking impetus when in possession.

Upfront, 37-year-old veteran striker Goran Pandev ought to line up alongside Aleksandar Trajkovski, who has scored three goals in two games in the Qualifiers thus far.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Dimitrievski; Bejtulai, Ristevski, Musliu; Ristovski, Bardhi, Nikolov, Elmas, Alioski; Trajkovski, Pandev

Key Stats

  • Germany have lost just two of their last 22 matches, with only one of those defeats coming since 2020.
  • Since 2020, North Macedonia have lost just two of their ten matches, winning five of those (D3). However, the two defeats have come in their last three matches (W1).
  • Germany have kept a clean sheet in three of their last five games, including the last two.
  • 37-year-old Goran Pandev is North Macedonia’s all-time leading goalscorer with 36 goals. He is also their most-capped player with 116 international appearances.
  • Die Mannschaft have failed to find the back of the net just three times in their last 26 games.

Player to Watch

Kai Havertz

It has been quite a difficult season for the 21-year-old. Following a sensational big-money move to Chelsea from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer, great things were expected of Havertz. But injuries, coronavirus and a lack of clear idea as to how to best use him in the team has contributed to a lack of form and confidence for the player.

However, having been shown the trust by Joachim Low in the last two games, Havertz has repaid the faith in full, scoring in the win against Iceland before setting up the only goal of the game against Romania last time out. And the 21-year-old will be looking to carry that momentum forward on Wednesday and end the international break on a high against North Macedonia.

Prediction

Germany 2-0 North Macedonia

North Macedonia did well to bounce back from their defeat and thrash Liechtenstein last time out. However, they will be up against an opponent of much higher quality in the form of Germany this week. And even though Joachim Low’s men weren’t at their best last time out against Romania, the sheer gulf of quality between the two sides should be enough to see them through to another win.

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