Germany face the first test of their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign when they take on Finland in Helsinki on Wednesday, Sept. 10. It will be the first real examination of the team since its Euro 2008 final defeat.
Germany strolled to a 6-0 win over Liechtenstein but Finland won't be as easy
The Germans began their qualifying campaign with a comfortable 6-0 outing against Liechtenstein in Vaduz on Saturday, and coach Joachim Loew looks like keeping an unchanged side against the Finns.
It means the attack will again be spearheaded by Bayern Munich partners Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose, while the new-look central defense of Heiko Westermann and Serdar Tasci will also be retained.
Podolski and Klose will start up front again for Germany
Podolski is out of favor at Bayern Munich but bagged a brace against Liechtenstein and is already up to 30 goals with the national team from just 56 games.
Klose, however, failed to find the net again to continue his run of poor scoring form, but continues to have the coach's backing.
"Miro is very important for the team. He is a striker of international format and will rediscover his form," Loew said.
Finland to provide Loew's team with proper work-out
Liechtenstein was no yardstick of the state of the German national team following defeat in the Euro 2008 final against Spain.
"Finland will be a different caliber," Loew said Monday. "They have many players from England. We will have to see how we manage."
Germany, three-time world champions, have a strong record against Finland, having lost just once -- back in 1923 -- in 20 matches.
But their last two meetings in World Cup qualifiers in 2001 both ended in draws. As a result Germany had to go into a two-match play-off against Ukraine to reach the 2002 finals.
Still absent from the Germany set-up is captain Michael Ballack who has returned to London following treatment from the German team doctors on a foot injury.
Loew will also be without Schalke defender Christian Pander who left the squad after picking up a viral infection.
Ballack and Bierhoff still butting heads
However a reported row between 31-year-old midfielder Ballack and team manager Oliver Bierhoff has proved a distraction to preparations.
It prompted German Soccer Federation (DFB) president Theo Zwanziger to call Monday on the team to focus on the Finland match.
"The coach must be able to concentrate fully on preparing the team for Wednesday's difficult task," he said, calling on Ballack and Bierhoff to end their differences.
Ballack is restrained after the altercation with Bierhoff at the end of the Euro 2008 final
The dispute has been simmering since the Euro 2008 final in Vienna on June 29 when the two had to be kept apart by players during an altercation on the pitch following the 1-0 defeat to Spain.
Finland's English coach Stuart Baxter will meanwhile have to reshuffle his defense following injury to central defender Hannu Tihinen, while goalkeeper Niko Maenpaa, midfielder Teemu Tainjo and captain Jari Litmanen are also sidelined.
Finland have never qualified for a World Cup finals but striker Mikael Forsell believes the team has a chance of making it to South Africa in 2010.
The Hanover striker, who comes up against club team-mate Robert Enke in the Germany goal, scored both goals for Finland in a 2-2 draw the last time the teams met in Helsinki in June 2001.
"We always seem to get at least two strong opponents - this time Russia and Germany. We know Wales and Azerbaijan are also strong at home, but I think we can reach the World Cup if we can get good results at home against the big teams," he told Germany's Kicker magazine.