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Semi-final showdown

Schweinsteiger: High time we beat Italy

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After 23 days at their team base in Gdansk, the Germany party with its eight Bayern men packed their bags and flew to Warsaw on Wednesday, prior to Thursday evening’s Euro 2012 semi-final against Italy. If the Germans achieve a historic first tournament victory over the four-time world champions, they will travel to final venue Kyiv on Friday.

However, no-one in the German camp is thinking that far ahead, as the sole priority is the stiff challenge posed by the wily Italians, deserved victors over England in the quarter-finals. “We’re intensely preparing for Italy," said Löw. The coach is highly likely to field at least five FCB players in his starting line-up, namely Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Holger Badstuber, Jerome Boateng and Bastian Schweinsteiger, who has shaken off an ankle problem.

Munich versus Turin

It is possible that Mario Gomez and Thomas Muller will also be restored to the line-up. Both started all three group matches but were substitutes in the quarter-final against Greece. “We have so many good and dangerous players. The coach has a number of options," explained team manager Oliver Bierhoff. Another alternative is provided by Toni Kroos, who has come on as a sub in three of the four games so far.

Approximately a third of the Germany squad ply their trade for Bayern, but the Italians have a one-club contingent of their own, drawn from champions Juventus. Seven Turin stars feature in coach Cesare Prandelli’s squad, with six likely to start against Germany. The Italy defence almost exclusively comprises players from Italy’s most successful club, who won Serie A last season without losing a single match.

Pirlo: Germans are afraid

Captain and keeper Gianluigi Buffon supervises a rearguard including Juve players Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini. In front of them, Andrea Pirlo pulls the midfield strings, guarded by Juventus team-mate Claudio Marchisio, although Emanuele Giaccherini is not expected to start. Pirlo, comfortably the man of the match against England, represents Germany's biggest headache. “He's a schemer and strategist who’s enjoying a renaissance," Löw said in praise of the 33-year-old.

However, the mood in the Germany camp is upbeat. “We're looking forward to this classic fixture," stated Schweinsteiger, who is set to earn his 95th cap, “we've never beaten Italy in a tournament, so it's high time!" Veteran Pirlo naturally offered a contrary opinion. “Germany are scared of us," the playmaker ventured. Enlightenment is due late on Thursday evening.