Germany are looking to maintain their perfect record in EURO 2020 qualifying as they find their new groove. Positive results against the Netherlands and Northern Ireland could make the home stretch smooth sailing.
After missing Germany's last two European qualifiers against Belarus and Estonia due to atraining accident that left him with a damaged artery, Joachim Löw is back with the Nationalmannschaft.
Germany face the Netherlands, a side they've already beaten once, in Hamburg on Friday night before travelling to Belfast on Monday to take on Northern Ireland, who currently boast a one-hundred per cent record in Group C.
Not only do the Germans have the chance to go top of the group, the two games also represent the latest stage of Löw's national team rebuild after a disastrous 2018.
The 59-year-old has already altered his possession-based philosophy somewhat and has begun to usher in a new generation of German talent on the back of controversially dropping former stalwarts Thomas Müller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng earlier this year.
But questions still remain and positions are still up for grabs across the pitch. DW takes a look.
Who will replace Leroy Sane?
After scoring in all three of Germany's group wins so far,Leroy Sane was quickly becoming a key figure in Löw's rebuild, but the Manchester City forward will miss the rest of the qualifying campaign after suffering knee ligament damage.
In the 23-year-old's absence, goal-scoring responsibilities will fall to Timo Werner, the RB Leipzig forward who scored a hat-trick against Borussia Mönchengladbach at the weekend, and Serge Gnabry, who netted Germany's second goal in the2-2 draw in Amsterdamback in November.
The two of them, plus Borussia Dortmund captain Marco Reus, are expected to form a front three, whileLuca Waldschmidt, who won the golden boot at the European Under-21 Championship in the summer and has already scored three in four for Freiburg this season, could also make his debut.
"Our current options are very good with the likes of Gnabry and Reus dropping in between the lines as well as going forward – they're very had to predict,” Löw told kicker magazine back in June, but admitted that he would like to have classic number nine as an alternative.
"A central striker, who occupies defenders, has good control and who scores 12-15 goals a season would of course be a good option to have," he said.
Breakthrough for Brandt and Havertz?
Until then, the likes of Julian Brandt and Kai Havertz (pictured above) are both expected to contribute goals from midfield.
"Playing the way he does at his age and scoring 17 goals last season – not many players manage that," Löw said of 20-year-old Havertz's form for Bayer Leverkusen. "He's already very mature but he'll still have hurdles to overcome."
Team manager Oliver Bierhoff, meanwhile, praised Brandt's impact in big games – especially off the bench, as he has shown for Dortmund in recent weeks. "In those games where he's come on as a substitute, he's brought positivity and creativity to the game," he said.
Behind them, Joshua Kimmich will reprise the midfield role he has made his own at international level, and where he has also featured for Bayern Munich in recent weeks, alongside Ilkay Gündogan or Toni Kroos.
Back four or back five?
Whether Germany line up with a nominal back three or back four, Löw is in no doubt as to the importance of full-backs in his new system.
"I expect a lot from my full-backs," he said. "It's one of the most demanding positions because, the way I want to play, I want them to apply pressure going forward but also remain defensively stable."
With Kimmich in midfield, the battle is on for those wide positions. On the right, Paris Saint-Germain's Thilo Kehrer seems to have the edge of RB Leipzig's Lukas Klostermann while, on the left, Nico Schulz has ousted Jonas Hector and Marcel Halstenberg.
"He gets in behind the opposition defense with his pace and acceleration, but he also defends well," Löw said of the Borussia Dortmund newcomer.
The Netherlands will provide stern opposition no matter the choices Löw makes as they proved twice last season and so too will Northern Ireland, but Germany have a chance to fashion a stranglehold on Group C which could make the home stretch smooth sailing.