France ready to test weakened Germans
A French side that has started life in promising fashion under Didier Deschamps will pose a serious test to Germany on Wednesday, with the visitors arriving in the French capital deprived of a host of leading players.
This encounter has been shoe-horned into a busy period of the club season, with the Champions League and Europa League knockout stages set to begin next week.
It was no great surprise, then, to see leading German players such as Bayern Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger and Borussia Dortmund trio Marcel Schmelzer, Marco Reus and Mario Goetze pull out of the game before the squad left Frankfurt for Paris.
Germany coach Joachim Loew has also lost veteran Lazio striker Miroslav Klose, who has a knee injury, leaving Bayern's Mario Gomez as the only fit centre-forward available for a match that precedes a World Cup qualifying double-header against Kazakhstan next month.
Despite that, Loew opted to replace Klose with Dortmund midfielder Sven Bender rather than turn to Bayer Leverkusen's Stefan Kiessling, the top-scoring German in the Bundesliga.
The visiting team that takes to the field at the Stade de France will have something of an experimental air to it, then, particularly in goal, where Hamburg's Rene Adler is set to play with regular first choice Manuel Neuer rested.
"This is just my reward for all my hard work, not a chance for me to become the number one again," says Adler, who faded from the international scene due to injury more than two years ago.
"To be back in the group of Germany's top players is a sensational experience, because I know how quickly things can change."
France know how quickly things can change in football, too, given the ups and downs experienced by Les Bleus in the last 12 months.
In February last year, Laurent Blanc's side beat Germany 2-1 in Bremen, a result that created a mood of optimism going into Euro 2012.
A disappointing showing at last summer's finals led to Blanc being replaced by Deschamps, who has added fresh blood to the squad and has overseen a promising start to their World Cup qualifying campaign.
Two wins and then a draw in Spain in October has set them up nicely for next month's clash with Georgia and the rematch with the reigning European and world champions.
Deschamps is also looking for his team to build on the 2-1 victory in Italy in their last outing in November.
"This is a prestigious game against a very good Germany team," he said.
"It is just a friendly, but we want to build on what we have done well so far and keep moving in the right direction.
"Germany are an experienced team, with players who have featured in the last two major tournaments and who represent major German clubs in the Champions League."
There could be a France debut for Rennes attacking midfielder Romain Alessandrini, but promising Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane has pulled out with a hamstring injury, with Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa of Newcastle United taking his place.
The hosts are defending a proud record against Germany, who have not beaten their neighbours since reunification.
France are unbeaten in six confrontations since a Rudi Voeller brace gave West Germany a 2-1 victory back in 1987.
"Such statistics are there to be broken," said Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff.
The visitors' desire to do so adds spice to a match that marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Elysee Treaty, which paved the way for friendly relations between two countries that had previously endured a long and bitter rivalry.
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