With both Ilkay Gündogan and Nico Schulz out injured, Germany have to make some adjustments for their Euro 2020 qualifier against Northern Ireland. Joachim Löw might give a young talent the chance to show his quality.
Joachim Löw wouldn't confirm it, but Kai Havertz looks set to start for Germany against Northern Ireland. "Kai Havertz is definitely a candidate for the starting 11," Löw said in Windsor Park, Belfast.
The 20-year-old has four caps, but has not started in a competitive match. After a disastrous defeat to the Dutch that left question marks about Germany's style of play, Löw may turn to Havertz as he hopes to restore the balance that was lacking in Hamburg.
It's likely that Löw will change his approach. Against the Dutch, Germany were reactive. Against a Northern Ireland side that Löw expects to be more physical, he called on Germany to raise "the potential of aggression." On top of that, Germany will likely enjoy more of the ball, which means Löw will need more creativity than pace in transition. Enter Havertz.
Despite being just 20, Havertz has already made over 100 appearances for Leverkusen. He has an eye for goal — he scored 17 Bundesliga goals last season — and head coach Peter Bosz admits his playmaker "has something special." His inclusion from the start would likely see Löw return to the classic 4-2-3-1 formation. With Julian Brandt pushing for a starting spot, the two friends and former Leverkusen teammates may be able to give Germany the spark they need to win in Belfast.
"The Northern Irish only play with one central striker, so we only need two central defenders," Löw said, increasing the chances that Germany will set up in far more familiar fashion on Monday night. The hope is they play in a more familiar way too.
For Havertz though, this is not only new but also an opportunity. Löw's hand might be forced because of Gündogan's absence but that won't bother Havertz. After the retirement of Mesut Özil, both Germany and Löw should be extremely grateful that a player of Havertz's quality has arrived to fill the void. If Löw's rebuild is to continue pace, now seems the time for Havertz to take his place in this team.
"He has an impressive feeling for space, superb ball control and a great overview," teammate Joshua Kimmich said. Germany could certainly do with more of that against Northern Ireland, but Löw has to give him the chance first.