England vs Germany Preview: Injury-stricken Three Lions look to prove a point in World Cup warm-up

England host Germany at Wembley on Friday night although Gareth Southgate's hopes of lining up with his strongest first-choice side have been wrecked by a spate of injuries to key players.

England vs Germany Preview: Injury-stricken Three Lions look to prove a point in World Cup warm-up
(Picture: Getty Images - Shaun Brooks)

England begin their 2018 World Cup preparations looking to test themselves against the best, hosting reigning World champions Germany at Wembley Stadium on Friday night.

The Three Lions host Germany and then Brazil in a five-day double-header, though a series of injuries have wrecked their plans to play their strongest eleven in both matches.

Seven of Gareth Southgate's initial 25-man squad have dropped out, a huge blow to the manager's plans to experiment with the 3-4-3 formation that he hopes to employ in Russia next summer.

The 47-year-old's options have been hindered by the absence of several key players, namely Tottenham Hotspur trio Harry Kane, Harry Winks and Dele Alli, while the loss of in-form Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling is another significant blow.

Southgate has indicated that their two matches will be used as a testing ground for the three-at-the-back system that he wants to use in order to improve his side's use of possession moving forward.

The ex-Middlesbrough manager will be aware of the criticism of his team's lack of dynamism and invention, as evidenced by dour back-to-back 1-0 wins over Slovenia and Lithuania in qualifying last month.

Though those results were sufficient enough to secure England's place in the group stages next June, the performances produced were well below expectation - a lack of entertainment having long been synonymous with the national team's displays.

But the absences of several important figures do at least offer an opportunity to England's back-up options, with no further fixtures until March next year - three months before the start of the World Cup.

Five of England's 21-man contingent are uncapped, while just two members of the squad have more than 30 caps, and they will hope to both justify their inclusions and demonstrate their worth to Southgate. 

It is the performance which will most concern the manager, who in the build-up has spoken of his desire to discover whether his team can evolve within a style that he believes in more than the 4-2-3-1 that they played with during qualifying.

And while the result is largely of second-most importance on this occasion, a positive result would be a huge encouragement. 

England have not beaten their old rivals on home soil since 1975 and lost in their last meeting back in March, Southgate's first game as permanent boss.

As the top-ranked team in FIFA's World Rankings and the reigning World Cup holders, Joachim Löw's Germany provide the stiffest possible test that Southgate could wish his England team to face.

Die Mannschaft have won their last seven in all competitions and have not lost in any of their 19 games since their Euro 2016 semi-final exit to France, who they face in Cologne on Tuesday.

The four-time World Cup winners were the only team to qualify for the upcoming edition of the tournament with a perfect record of 10 wins from 10, scoring 43 goals and conceding just four.

And while England have a reputation for following up noteworthy results with thoroughly underwhelming major finals performances - such as beating Germany in March 2016 before a humiliating Euros exit to Iceland months later - a win would be of huge benefit to the momentum and confidence in the camp.

They will at the least hope to prove themselves capable of going toe-to-toe with the world's best and show that under Southgate they are capable of making the progress they have failed to make under previous regimes.

Under the former Three Lions defender, England have lost to Germany and France and squandered a two-goal lead late on at home to Spain in their only matches against top opposition, a record he will hope to rectify against Germany and Brazil.

Southgate will hope to show he is capable of cultivating a tactical and technical performance that can challenge a team as excellent as Germany's, even despite a recent spate of injuries, and provide a shot in the arm to the dwindling interest and belief in this England team.

 

Team news

Spurs' trio of Kane - a certain starter of world-class quality who might yet captain his country at the World Cup - Winks and Alli are three notable absentees from the England squad, which has been trimmed from 25 to 21 due to injuries.

City winger Sterling - who has 10 goals and two assists in 16 appearances this season - is absent due to back problems, while club team-mate Fabian Delph misses out on his first cap since November 2015 with a calf complaint.

Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson remains sidelined by a thigh injury, although Chelsea captain Gary Cahill has been passed fit after medical assessments.

Stoke City goalkeeper Jack Butland - who was expected to start over Joe Hart - broke his finger in training on Thursday, meaning Jordan Pickford could earn his first cap in goal.

England are also without international Player of the Year Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne, Danny Welbeck, Ross Barkley and fringe options Michail Antonio and Nathaniel Chalobah because of injuries, while Daniel Sturridge, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Chris Smalling were among those overlooked.

Centre-back Michael Keane and midfielders Jake Livermore and Jack Cork have been called up to deputise and West Bromwich Albion's Livermore could start alongside Eric Dier in the centre.

Ashley Young could make his first England appearance since September 2013 while Joe Gomez, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tammy Abraham are all currently uncapped.

Germany have had one injury-enforced absence themselves, Ajax attacking midfielder Amin Younes' knee problem denies him a chance to build on his tally of five caps.

The visitors have five players plying their trade in the Premier League among their 24-man contingent, with City midfielder Ilkay Gündoğan called back into the squad for the first time since last November, as is Borussia Dortmund's Mario Götze.

RB Leipzig defender Marcel Halstenberg is Löw's squad for the first time, with Germany minus big names such as Bayern Munich duo Manuel Neuer and Thomas Müller as well as Marco Reus, Julian Weigl, Jonas Hector, Shkodran MustafiMario Gómez and André Schürrle.

 

Squads in full

England

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Jordan Pickford.

Defenders: Ryan Bertrand, Danny Rose, Gary Cahill, Phil Jones, Harry Maguire, John Stones, Michael Keane, Joe Gomez, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier.

Midfielders: Eric Dier, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Jesse Lingard, Jack Cork, Jake Livermore, Ashley Young.

Forwards: Jamie Vardy, Marcus Rashford, Tammy Abraham.

Germany

Goalkeepers: Kevin Trapp, Bernd Leno, Marc-André ter Stegen.

Defenders: Niklas Süle, Marvin Plattenhardt, Matthias Ginter, Mats Hummels, Antonio Rüdiger, Jérôme Boateng, Joshua Kimmich, Marcel Halstenberg.

Midfielders: Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos, Emre Can, Julian Draxler, Mesut Özil, Mario Götze, Ilkay Gündoğan, Sebastian Rudy, Leroy Sané, Julian Brandt.

Forwards: Sandro Wagner, Timo Werner, Lars Stindl.

 

Head-to-head record

England as the home team: England - 7 wins, Draws - 0, Germany - 6 wins.

Germany as the home team: Germany - 7 wins, Draws - 6, England - 9 wins.

Total: England - 16 wins, Draws - 6, Germany - 13.

Match stats

Germany have won on all of their last six visits to England since a 2-0 defeat at the old Wembley in March 1975.

Germany's last trip to England came in November 2013 when Per Mertesacker's goal was enough to give the away side a 1-0 win.

England have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last seven games against Germany.

Germany have not lost an away game since a 2-0 defeat to Germany at the Stade de France in November 2015, winning eight of their 10 matches on the road since then.