Squad deadline: Final test for Neuer and Co
Germany supremo Jogi Löw will name his final 23-man squad for the 2018 World Cup on Monday. The preliminary squad for the training camp in South Tyrol comprises 27 players, so the 58-year-old head coach must cut four names from the current longlist. Before then, the world champions contest a friendly against neighbours Austria in Klagenfurt at 6 pm CEST on Saturday. It is only a warm-up exercise, but could still be mightily significant for Manuel Neuer.
"If everything's OK, he'll start in goal tomorrow," declared Löw on Friday at Germany's daily press conference in Eppan. "He may not manage the full 90 minutes, but it looks as though he'll regain 100 percent fitness bang on time for the tournament." In that case, Neuer would be a near-certainty to travel to Russia as his country's designated number one. Niklas Süle, Sebastian Rudy and Joshua Kimmich will also be asked to present their credentials in Saturday's friendly. "It's a test where all of us want to state a case and book a place at the World Cup," Süle said on Wednesday.
Löw also announced that 2014 World Cup winners Mats Hummels, Thomas Müller and Jérôme Boateng would not be in the party travelling to Klagenfurt. "They've had a lot of games and I know what they can do. It'll be good for them to recover some mental freshness," Löw reasoned. The game in any case comes too early for Boateng, who is still completing a sports rehab course after injury.
Alaba likely to feature for Austria
The Austrians have no such worries. "Everyone's fit, they're all available to play, and they're all looking forward to it," coach Franco Foda said at his team's pre-match media conference. One implication of that statement would be a Bayern head-to-head. "I'd be delighted if I came up against my mate David Alaba," Süle smiled. Bayern's Austria star has recently struggled with back problems, but made a comeback as a sub in his country's 1-0 victory over Russia last Wednesday.
"I'll take David aside and talk to him about it before the match," Foda revealed. "David is an extremely important player for us. He has great quality, regardless of the position he fills. And we all saw how determined he was to add impetus in the 35 minutes after he came on [against Russia]."