Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger is planning to make his national team comeback in Gelsenkirchen on Saturday, as Germany takes on Hungary in its last warm-up match before Euro 2016.
The Manchester United star, 31, last played in March after sustaining a serious knee injury. The lay off means he still lacks crucial match fitness before the European Championship starts in France next week.
“I’m confident. My goal is to play in the friendly - 20 to 30 minutes would be good,” he said on Thursday from the national soccer team training camp in Ascona, Switzerland.
Schweinsteiger said he had “already broadly” discussed his comeback with German national team coach Jogi Löw, but that he wasn’t expecting to play the entire match against Hungary.
“I think it will more likely be a substitution,” he said. “Naturally it can’t go from zero to hundred, I have to get used to the rhythm again.”
Schweinsteiger’s return would be a big boost to Germany’s Euro 2016 hopes, especially as Löw will still have to do without injured defender Mats Hummels for another couple of weeks. Hummels, who is joining Bayern Munich next season, is only likely to be fit by Germany’s third group match against Northern Ireland on June 21 after suffering a muscle strain.
“I don’t think it will be (healed) enough for the first two matches against Ukraine and Poland,” said Hummels. “But I’m totally relaxed and confident.”
Germany will start the tournament against Ukraine on June 12 before facing Poland on June 16.
Saturday’s final friendly before Euro 2016 will be held in the northwestern German city of Gelsenkirchen. Löw will be hoping his side can bounce back from a 3-1 loss against Slovakia last week and tried to downplay the importance of pre-tournament matches: "I know when the tournament begins, all the results that happened before are irrelevant. Everything is focused on June 12.”
With Schweinsteiger unlikely to start, Hummels out and Dortmund’s Marco Reus recently cut from the national squad, Löw may give some of Germany's younger players a chance to prove themselves. Bayern Munich's Joshua Kimmich, 21, could win his second cap in a somewhat unfamiliar role at right back while 22-year-old Julian Draxler might get playing time on the left wing.
Otherwise, Löw appears set to rely on his proven cadre of stars in Germany’s 34th international match against Hungary. “The framework is there. And that foundation is very important,” he said.
And that’s a sentiment Germany 'keeper Manuel Neuer echoed: “It’s important to have the best possible players on the pitch,” he said. “This is the most important test of the year.”
Hungary’s German coach Bernd Storck no doubt agrees and hopes his side can replicate Slovakia’s surprise win. Hungary takes on Austria on in their first Euro 2016 group match on June 14 before facing Iceland and Portugal.