With one win in their last six competitive internationals – a stunning statistic for a team that was reigning World champion less than five months ago – Germany will be somewhat comforted by the fact that this game has nothing of consequence riding on it. Assuming that Joachim Low and his players can avoid entering a fugue state at the mere mention of Russia after their pitiful showing there this past summer, this is a game they should feel confident of winning.
Russia themselves managed a quarter-final berth in their home World Cup, an achievement considered a huge success for a side lacking in top-class players. Since then they’ve performed well enough in a Nations League group with Sweden and Turkey. It’s on a potentially pivotal final group game in Stockholm that they’ll be focusing this week, which may see them take a less serious approach to a friendly that could become an open, entertaining clash as a result.
Germany vs Russia Prediction: Germany 3-1 Russia
While it is true that Germany have lost more games recently than they’d have liked, they are in the top tier of the Nations League and share a group with France, the World champions. Russia are not on that level and, although their showing in the summer was impressive, they won’t have home advantage here. Germany, with a squad drawn mostly from Bundesliga clubs, have placed this home game in Leipzig, home base for one of their most important players (more on whom in a moment). The hosts should have enough about them to win comfortably on the night.
Our recommended tip: Timo Werner FGS
Werner has an international scoring rate of eight goals in 21 games – really not bad, considering that Germany have been underperforming for at least a year. He plays at the Red Bull Arena for the controversial moneybags club RB Leipzig, although he has been repeatedly linked with moves to traditionally “bigger” clubs. Against a Russian side with a creaky defence, his pace and eye for goal (he’s grabbed six in ten Bundesliga games this season) should make him a shoo-in to break the deadlock, and William Hill’s 3/1 (4.00) odds make him excellent value.
This game will be the first between these sides for almost a decade, as they have not met since sharing a World Cup 2010 qualifying group. Thanks to a mass of retirements after the recent World Cup, the sides that take the field tonight will likely contain not a single player who appeared in the Moscow fixture back in 2009, which ended 1-0 to Germany. Miroslav Klose notched the winning goal after 35 minutes. Germany also prevailed in the earlier game, in Dortmund, with Michael Ballack and Lukas Podolski both getting on the scoresheet in the first half before an Andriy Arshavin consolation.
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Players to watch: Leroy Sane & Fyodor Chalov
Sane has been called back up to the German squad, having missed the World Cup and thus not been party to the destruction of reputations that took place in that absolute shambles. He’s been in sparkling form recently for Manchester City, and his pace and dribbling ability mean the former Schalke man will be a thorn in the side of whoever is assigned to mark him. He’s picked up three goals and three assists this season, and Werner will be pleased to see him in the side.
Chalov is more of an unknown quantity, and if he turns out tonight will be making his international debut. However, this is precisely what makes him so important to Russia’s footballing future. The recent squads Russia have picked don’t add up to a Golden Generation – they’d struggle to be even a semi-precious metal like, say, osmium – but the post-World Cup cycle is a chance for the likes of this 20-year-old Lokomotiv striker, with nine goals in 14 appearances this season, to mark out their future path.