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The race to be Manuel Neuer's understudy

Manuel Neuer is Germany's unquestionable starter, but coach Joachim Löw has spent 2017 seeking a suitable back-up. With Germany's captain spared from the side again, here's a look at Germany's goalkeeper options.

Manuel Neuer wanted to play in Germany's upcoming World Cup qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Norway. He really did.

"I would have loved to come along," Neuer said after Bayern Munich's 2-0 win against Werder Bremen on Saturday, his first appearance since April of this year. "But that isn't only my decision that I will miss the international games."

That decision was made by Germany coach Joachim Löw, who said Neuer is "not yet 100 percent."

"Maybe he can take advantage the next two weeks," Löw said in an interview published in Monday's edition of "Kicker."

"It would be fatal to put him at risk."

Löw elected to call in Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Bernd Leno and Kevin Trapp, the same three goalkeepers in Germany's squad at the Confederations Cup. Having Neuer back in the fold would have been nice, but with Germany possibly on the verge of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, he is not necessary.

Instead, Löw can continue the exercise of finding Neuer's back-up goalkeeper. Germany has always had depth at the position, with several playing at the highest levels in Germany, England, France and Spain. But if Neuer, who struggled with calf and foot injuries last season, is not fit for the World Cup, the pressure is on Löw to deploy the proper replacement.

 

The key contenders

Deutschland Fußball Nationalmannschaft Kevin Trapp und Bernd Leno (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Gebert)

Kevin Trapp, left, and Bernd Leno are among Joachim Löw's goalkeeper options

At one point during the Confederations Cup, it appeared Löw was going to rotate ter Stegen, Leno and Trapp throughout the entire tournament. After an underwhelming performance from Leno, though, Löw decided to commit to ter Stegen as the starter.

The Barcelona keeper has played the most minutes of all, including Neuer, since the 2016 European Championship in France. He has also become a starter at Camp Nou after splitting time with Claudio Bravo in his first two seasons with the Catalan club. He was Neuer's back-up at Euro 2016, and he is the favorite to continue that role at the World Cup.

Leno was the third goalkeeper at Euro 2016, but his shot stopping ability has been questioned at international level. The Leverkusen goalkeeper has conceded five goals in five caps with Germany, two of which came against Australia in the Confederations Cup. He may very well get another chance at the World Cup.

The third goalkeeper Löw brought to the Confederations Cup was Kevin Trapp of Paris Saint-Germain. Trapp made a high profile transfer to France from Eintracht Frankfurt in 2015, and got his first Germany cap in an International Friendly against Denmark in June. However, he has since lost his starting place at PSG to Alphonse Areola, and if he isn't careful, his place in the Germany may be lost as well.

 

Outside options

Perhaps Germany's best uncapped goalkeeper is Ralf Fährmann. Now Schalke's captain, he has the leadership qualities the national team covets. However, he does not command the penalty area like others do, and is not very good when he comes off his line. With another generation of young keepers coming through the ranks, his opportunities to break into Löw's squad may be dwindling.

Löw could also consider Cologne's Timo Horn or Liverpool's Loris Karius, who were ter Stegen's back-ups at the 2015 Under-21 European Championship in the Czech Republic. Karius made a big move from Mainz to Liverpool before last season, but has struggled during his time in England, keeping just three clean sheets in 10 appearances in the Premier League. Horn was injured for much of last season, but looked like his old self upon his return.

Ron Robert Zieler was Germany's third goalkeeper during the 2014 World Cup, but has not received a call-up since 2015. He only made 13 appearances last season for Leicester City, serving mostly as Kasper Schmeichel's back-up. He is now back in Germany with newly-promoted Stuttgart, but his national team days could be behind him.

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