Joachim Löw is taking no chances ahead of Germany's friendly against Spain in Düsseldorf on Friday night and will rely on a trusted core of experienced players. Barcelona's Marc-Andre ter Stegen gets the nod in goal.
German national team coach Joachim Löw confirmed on Thursday that Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Toni Kroos, Mesut Özil and Thomas Müller will all start against the 2008 and 2012 European Champions Spain in Düsseldorf on Friday night – but also said that he would be making changes for Germany's second friendly against Brazil on Tuesday.
"The teams I select for each game won't be identical," Löw told a press conference in Düsseldorf. "But there are five or six players who will definitely play tomorrow [against Spain]."
With less than three months to go until the World Cup and less than two months to go until he announces his provisional squad, Löw said that the reigning champions are the team everyone will want to beat in Russia.
"We are the hunted," he said, adding that he is still far from making a final decision.
"Performance and team qualities are more important than anything," he said. "We want to have two good options for every position, but my short-term gut feeling will also play a role."
Ter Stegen gets the nod
In addition to the five outfield players, Löw also confirmed that Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen will start against Spain in place of Germany's regular number one, Manuel Neuer, who remains sidelined as he recovers from a foot injury.
"[Ter Stegen] played an outstanding role at the Confederations Cup and he's grown in stature at Barcelona, too," said Löw. "He's gone through a maturing process and has become a strong personality. He's ready for anything."
Midfielder Toni Kroos, who plays his club football with Barcelona's La Liga rivals Real Madrid, has kept a close eye on Ter Stegen and believes that he is "almost the perfect goalkeeper."
"He plays at a consistently high level," said Kroos. "His game is perfect for a team like Barcelona who like to play out from the back."
"International games are always valuable but obviously it has something extra for Toni and I," said Ter Stegen, referring to the game against Spain. "Many of our opponent's players play in Spain so we have a good idea of their mentality. Perhaps Toni and I can bring a few ideas into the team."
Löw is nevertheless "absolutely optimistic" that captain Neuer will be fit in time for the World Cup.
"The plan is that he will be playing again before the end of the season," he said, adding that: "The doctors have assured me that everything's looking good."
Still hope for BVB trio
Mario Götze, André Schürrle and Marco Reus all failed to make the squad for the upcoming friendlies but Löw assured the Borussia Dortmund triumvirate that they've not been forgotten.
Of Götze, who famously scored Germany's World Cup-winning goal in Rio de Janeiro in 2014, he said: "[He] has not quite reached the form we expect but he's certainly not been discounted."
The same applies to Schürrle. "He's shown an upward trend in recent weeks and we all know what he's capable of, so he's still in contention."
As for Reus, "I wouldn't have nominated him for this squad after such a long injury layoff. His fitness is paramount."
But there was bad news for Augsburg full-back Philipp Max who, despite assisting on an impressive 13 Bundesliga goals this season, "isn't in our plans for the World Cup."
Bayern Munich midfielder Sebastian Rudy may join up with the squad on Saturday. His wife is expecting a child and he has remained in Munich.