More than just a friendly: Arch-rivals Germany and England to throw down Euro 2016 marker
Berlin: Germany host England at Berlin's imposing Olympic Stadium on Saturday amidst security concerns as both teams look to throw down a marker for Euro 2016.
The Brussels bomb attacks last Tuesday means security personnel will be on a high state of alert with a crowd of around 72,000 expected for the high-profile match as two of the favourites for June's European championships meet.
Germany suffered a blow on Wednesday when Manchester United midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger tore the ligament in his right knee and faces a race against time to be fit for Euro 2016 finals which starts on June 10.
And head coach Joachim Loew showed his teeth on Tuesday by throwing Wolfsburg striker Max Kruse out of the squad for the friendlies against England, and then four days later against Italy, for off-field indiscretions.
Both teams will experiment, especially England, who have several injuries, including captain and record goal-scorer Wayne Rooney, who is sidelined with a knee injury.
Goalkeeper Joe Hart, who is recovering from a calf injury, has been included in the squad for the friendlies against Germany, then Holland next Tuesday at Wembley.
Southampton defender Ryan Bertrand is out after picking up an injury, but Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge and Arsenal midfielder Danny Welbeck both return after long absences.
Sturridge missed England's entire Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with hip, knee, foot and hamstring injuries while Welbeck was out for 10 months with a knee problem.
Sturridge faces competition to start up front from Leicester's Jamie Vardy or Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane and the Germans clearly respect their English rivals.
"I rate England as a good team, with a view to the European championships, especially when you look at all the names they have," said Germany's Toni Kroos.
"The English have a few ideas and they are quick up front."
This will be the 33rd time Germany have played England with the Germans having won 12, drawn six and lost 15 times to the Three Lions.
The last time the teams met, in November 2013 at Wembley, a Per Mertesacker header sealed Germany's 1-0 win in London.
Since then, England manager Roy Hodgson instilled a sense of realism and is grooming a group of talented young players.
Germany have failed to shine since winning the World Cup nearly two years ago, but are eager to find some form and Loew says the English are becoming a force to be reckoned with.
"England have improved in the last two or three years and have undergone a clear change," said Loew, whose youthful Germany team trouced England 4-1 in the Round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup.
"I see parallels between them and how we were in 2010.
"They have brought in young players, they are very good in defence, concede few goals and have players who are quick to counter. That's how we played in 2010."
England's recent record includes a flawless 10 wins from their Euro 2016 qualifiers while Germany put in a below-par campaign with defeats to Ireland and Poland as they won seven of their 10 qualifiers, but also won their group.
Tottenham left-back Danny Rose and Leicester midfielder Danny Drinkwater could make their England debuts in Berlin on the back of stellar seasons for their clubs.
"I have been given a small chance here to show what I am capable of and it is up to me to take it," said Drinkwater.
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