England v Germany
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Exciting England squad weakened by key withdrawals
A youthful and exciting 25-man squad was named by Gareth Southgate ahead of the mouthwatering Wembley double-header against Germany and Brazil, yet come kick-off on Friday night the England boss might well be pulling fans out of the crowd to see if any fancy 10 minutes against the current world champions.
The squad has had much of its quality decimated by high profile withdrawals, including in-form trio Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling, and Harry Kane, who surely would have all started against the Germans.
Midfielder Harry Winks - who was perhaps the only shining light in England's lethargic 1-0 win over Lithuania last month - has also pulled out, as too have Jordan Henderson and Fabian Delph, meaning a total of six withdrawals to date. Southgate has replaced them with defender Michael Keane and midfielders Jake Livermore and Jack Cork, while Joe Gomez, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and Tammy Abraham have been called up for the first time.
It was refreshing however to see Southgate name such a young squad, and admit that he picked players who he intends to use in a system similar to how Man City are blitzing the Premier League, and how Tottenham have lined-up recently. It's just a shame that five of those Man City/Spurs players will be absent.
Form-wise England have won four out of four this season, performance-wise it's been pretty painful to watch at times. A hugely flattering 4-0 win over Malta - thanks to three goals in the final five minutes - was followed by single-goal victories over Slovakia, Slovenia, and Lithuania, leaving more questions than answers about where Southgate's men are actually heading.
This will be England's fourth friendly under the current boss; his previous three resulted in a 2-2 draw with Spain, and 1-0 and 3-2 defeats to Germany and France respectively. All three however were played away from home.
Formidable squad assembled for in-form World Champions
Germany will arrive at Wembley on the back of a hugely successful World Cup qualifying campaign in which they won all 10 of their fixtures, scoring 43 goals in the process, some 25 more than England managed in their unbeaten campaign.
Joachim Low's world champions are actually unbeaten in every game they've played since their Euro 2016 semi-final defeat to France, winning 16 and drawing three of their last 19 competitive matches, a run that also saw them crowned Confederations Cup champions in the summer.
Low has named a formidable squad, yet despite the likes of Matts Hummels (60 caps), Sami Khedira (71), Toni Kroos (79), Mesut Ozil (86), and Mario Gotze (62), seemingly having been around for many years, the average age of the 23 men assembled is almost identical - just a tad over 24 - to that of England's squad. The big difference being that Germany's players have an average of 25 caps, which is 10 more than the Three Lions.
Along with Ozil - that's the one who regularly plays superbly for his country and is a pivotal part of the team, rather than the Ozil who turns out for Arsenal - Germany's squad also boasts Premier League stars such as the excellent Leroy Sane, Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger, and midfielders Emre Can and Ilkay Gundogan.
Visitors look a rock solid bet
I'm not one to go overboard when it comes to international friendlies, but as the saying goes, there's no such thing as a friendly when England play Germany, and for that reason - among others - I have to back the away team at 2.16.
I'm fully aware that down the years the Three Lions have tended to raise their game in friendly matches against strong opposition, and as recently as March last year they did beat Germany 3-2 in their own back yard, but that has tended to be when able to name a strong line-up.
England will be far from at full strength on Friday night with the Premier League's leading goalscorer (Kane), Man City's joint leading scorer (Sterling), and Tottenham's impressive duo of Alli and Winks all out injured, and that certainly opens the door for what will surely be a strong Germany XI to record a victory.
It's also impossible to ignore how dull and unimpressive England have been in recent games - against far weaker opposition than they'll face at Wembley on Friday - and that Southgate has yet to oversee a win in an international friendly.
The Three Lions can be backed at 3.70 to win, with the Draw trading at 3.60, but neither of those bets make any appeal.
Goals likely as new system evolves
England lined-up with three central defenders against Lithuania last month and Southgate has expressed a desire to keep playing with that system - with two wide defenders pushed further up the field - in preparation for next year's World Cup.
So although the players expected to start in that formation are clearly used to it with their club sides, it's still a new system for England and one that might need some bedding-in time.
And with the Three Lions being severely weakened in midfield I expect Germany to take full advantage, control most of the game, and force England into errors. I won't be surprised at all if Low's men score at least two or three at Wembley on Friday night, while the trickery and pace of Marcus Rashford and Jamie Vardy at the other end of the pitch could result in a goal or two for the hosts.
Over 3.5 Goals is available to back at 3.60 and that looks like being a bet that will give us a huge run for our money.
Back Germany to Win @ 2.16 (best bet)
Back Over 3.5 Goals @ 3.60