Loew backs goal-shy Gomez ahead of Italy clash

Shukriya Pakistan

MILAN: Germany coach Joachim Loew has backed embattled Wolfsbug striker Mario Gomez to return to form, but also intends to field emerging talent when the world champions meet Italy on Tuesday.

Italy face Germany at the San Siro in Milan for the first time since losing to them in a dramatic penalty shoot-out at the quarter-final stages of Euro 2016.

Loew confirmed both sides intend to field the emerging players in their squads as they look to strengthen their respective bids to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

“Both teams will feel freer to experiment because it’s not an official game or a qualifier so there is little at stake,” Loew told media in Milan.

But Gomez, Germany’s key striker, remains a doubt due to a thigh knock that has added to his woes over the past few months.

Gomez signed for Wolfsburg after fine form at Turkish champions Besiktas, but the goals have since dried up.

Loew hinted the 31-year-old would now start on the bench.

“Gomez has a bruised thigh so we’ll see how he comes through training later. I don’t want to have problems with his club,” said Loew.

“He’s had a few injury problems and started the season later than the rest. But I’m sure his confidence will come back once he starts hitting goals again.

“He’s a great finisher and with Wolfsburg he’s made a very important career decision.”

Loew set a new record tally of 95 wins for a Germany coach when the ‘Mannschaft’ pummelled San Marino 8-0 in a World Cup qualifier on Friday.

But he will leave a number of established stars out of his plans.

Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira and Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil are both set to be rested, meaning a likely debut for Wolfsburg’s Yannick Gerhardt.

With regular skipper Manuel Neuer out with a virus, Bayer Leverkusen’s Bernd Leno will be in Germany’s goal with Bayern Munich forward Thomas Mueller set to wear the captain’s armband.

Toni Kroos (foot) and Jerome Boateng (knee and groin) are both sidelined.

Former Arsenal midfielder Serge Gnabry, now with Werder Bremen, is set for his second start after scoring a hat-trick on Friday to become the first German in 40 years to score three goals on his senior debut.

He should line up with 19-year-old fellow debutant, right back Benjamin Henrichs.

Loew added: “The players are ready, Leon is in goal and there will be a lot of other young players involved.”

Ahead of the sides’ 35th meeting, Italy have the upper hand historically with 15 wins, 10 draws and only nine losses.

But Italy haven’t beaten Germany in their last three meetings and Germany have won the last two: a 4-1 friendly win in Munich earlier this year, before beating Italy on penalties at the quarter-final stage of Euro 2016 last summer.

Italy forward Ciro Immobile, who endured a bittersweet spell at Borussia Dortmund, is expected to start alongside Torino’s Andrea Belotti. Combined, both players have scored seven of Italy’s last nine goals.

Central defender Mats Hummels said: “I know him well. He’s in good form at the moment. He’s tricky and always dangerous in front of goal.”

But he added: “It’s the fifth time for me playing against Italy. We haven’t lost any of our last three games against them.”