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National Team

Joachim Löw to ring the changes as Germany seek early qualification

While Germany’s record in Group C has been perfect, their performance in Prague was anything but. Coach Joachim Löw is to make changes against Norway with his side on the brink of qualifying for World Cup 2018.

The World Cup champions' 2-1 win over the Czech Republic on Friday was marrred by ugly scenes in the stands and it was also the closest Germany have come to dropping points in their qualifying campaign.

After experimenting with both personnel and formation in that match, Head coach Joachim Löw confirmed in his Sunday press conference that a few familiar faces will return against the Norwegians, who sit fourth in the group after only two wins from their seven matches - against San Marino and Azerbaijan.

"I'm planning to make a few changes to the starting 11. Julian Draxler has trained well and will play," said Löw, who expects to have Sami Khedira back captaining the side.

After flirting with a formation that was difficult to define against the Czechs, Löw mused on the best way to attack his opponents.

"We have to be on the front foot against Norway," he said. "When we play with three in midfield, we’re completely reliant on the midfield to get the ball moving towards goal. I’m not sure if we necessarily need two holding midfielders. Two holding midfielders mean you don’t get forward as much against what will be a defensive Norway side."

That may mean another chance for veteran striker Mario Gomez, who Löw praised for his "goalscoring instinct in the penalty area."

Germany can qualify if they win and Northern Ireland fail to do the same against the Czechs in Belfast, a scenario that would give Löw even more scope for tinkering in the final two qualifying games next month.

Sami Khedira will play in Stuttgart for the first time since leaving the club (picture alliance / dpa)

Sami Khedira is to play in Stuttgart for the first time since leaving the club

For Khedira, there will be an extra incentive. The Juventus midfielder returns to play at Stuttgart's Mercedes Benz Arena for the first time since departing for Real Madrid seven years ago. 

"I haven't had the chance to play in Stuttgart since 2010," said the 30-year-old midfielder, who was born the city and grew up nearby. "It'll be a special and emotional game for me."

So special that Khedira snapped up over 1,000 tickets for children in the Stuttgart area. He'll be hoping they go home having seen Germany take another step towards defending their World Cup title. 

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