Germany v Spain
Friday March 23, 19:45 GMT

Germany ready for fine tuning ahead of title defence

The world champions aren't messing around as they prepare to defend their crown in Russia. A few days after they take on Spain in Dusseldorf, they will welcome another major rival to the German capital Berlin, a Brazil team aching for revenge after that 7-1 defeat four years ago.
Germany are coming off the back of a flawless World Cup qualifying campaign that saw them win all ten of their matches. Although their group was far from the strongest, they still showed admirable consistency and ruthlessness, qualities that will serve them well in Russia this summer. Germany are top of the FIFA world rankings, and are on a 21-match unbeaten run. They won the Confederations Cup with a squad that lacked a clutch of key players, a hint of the depth in German football at present.
Bundestrainer Jogi Loew has had some big calls to make in selecting his squad. He has kept faith with Borussia Monchengladbach forward Lars Stindl - who scored the winner in the Confederations Cup final - even though he recently suffered a Bundesliga goal drought of more than 1400 minutes. Marco Reus is back fit and scoring goals for Borussia Dortmund, but Loew perhaps wisely doesn't want to overburden him at this stage.
Keeper and captain Manuel Neuer is on course to return from foot surgery next month, left-back Jonas Hector is likely to make his first international start since September, while perhaps the most controversial call has seen Mario Goetze omitted. Goetze scored the winning goal in the World Cup final four years ago, and is playing regularly for Borussia Dortmund.

Lopetegui's Spain keen to plant a flag in the sand

Like Germany, Spain have also chosen a high calibre of opponent for this international break. After taking on Die Mannschaft in Dusseldorf, they will face World Cup 2014 runners-up Argentina in Madrid. Coach Julen Lopetegui delivered an impressive qualifying campaign that saw Spain finish top of their group ahead of Italy.
Lopetegui says there are still places up for grabs, and Chelsea's excellent left-back Marcos Alonso has been given a late chance to impress. The same opportunity hasn't been afforded to Bayern Munich star Javi Martinez, whose continued omission continues to cause a fair bit of head-scratching in Germany.
It appears Spain haven't yet settled on a forward line. Lopetegui has urged Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata to raise his game after leaving him out, while Diego Costa has returned after his mid-season exile at club level.

Germany the favourites, but draw has appeal

A case can be made for both teams here. Germany haven't lost a game since Euro 2016, and they were stellar in qualifying. However, in friendlies, Loew likes to experiment with personnel and tactics, and it's worth noting that his team has only won one of the last five friendlies. Those games were against quality opposition including Italy, England and France.
Spain haven't lost a friendly since the summer of 2016, but they have had a few scares. They needed a late equaliser against Colombia last summer, and were 2-0 down in the 89th minute against England at Wembley, only to draw 2-2.

I rarely advocate backing the draw in games, but it genuinely seems an attractive optionhere. Germany have drawn four of their last five friendlies, while Spain have finished level in three of their last five. Both teams are stubbornly tough to beat.

Unders and overs a tight call

The Over/Under 2.5 Goals market is split down the middle, with unders at 2.00 and overs at 1.99. I can understand why. Germany scored 43 goals in qualifying, more than any other side, but four of their last five friendlies have featured fewer than three goals.
Spain have scored 39 goals in their last 12 games, but their record of five clean sheets in the last six games suggests they'll be tough to break down.
If I had to make a call, I'd lean towards backing Under 2.5 Goals at 2.00

Germany's striker battle could inspire Werner
RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner scored the winning goal against Bayern Munich on Sunday, scoring his 18th goal of the season in all competitions. Werner is expected to start against Spain, and if he does (keep an eye on the team news) then I think he is worth backing at [2.87] to score. He has netted seven goals in his last seven internationals, but he is under pressure from Stindl, Bayern striker Sandro Wagner and the resurgent Stuttgart forward Mario Gomez.
Diego Costa has a point to prove after his long absence, and he has been in decent form for Atletico Madrid. He is also [2.87] to find the net.
Back the draw at 3.45
Back Timo Werner to score at 15/8 (Sportsbook)

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