Ireland are set to deploy extra numbers in the midfield in a bid to halt heavyweights Germany in their World Cup qualifier on Friday.
Joachim Loew’s side will enter the Aviva Stadium match as hot favourites, having made a successful start to their qualifying campaign with victories against the Faroe Islands and Austria in their opening two games.
They need just two more wins to earn direct qualification into Brazil 2014.
But Ireland assistant coach Marco Tardelli revealed the hosts planned to use a 4-3-3 formation to counter Germany’s midfield potency.
James McCarthy, Keith Andrews and Keith Fahey are expected to be the men charged with executing the defensive assault.
“I think we need to change something against Germany because the Germans are a very strong team and play 4-3-3,” Tardelli said.
“So maybe it’s possible for us to play 4-3-3. I don’t know who the third midfielder will be but Fahey has good experience and for (David) Meyler it is very early because it’s a very tough match and we need experienced players.
“Why the change? Because we have many injuries and against Germany we play 4-3-3 as they have a big player behind the two strikers, (Mesut) Oezil.
“Maybe we need a midfielder who can control and keep them in check. So we put three midfielders on the pitch and one midfielder is for Oezil.”
Whether the Irish can successfully quell Germany, ranked second in the world behind Spain, remains to be seen given the visitors will have attacking midfielders Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos (both Bayern), Mario Gotze, Marco Reus (both Dortmund), Oezil and Lukas Podolski fighting for three places.
The group favourites, who last dropped points in a qualifier over three years ago (1-1 v Finland, October 2009), also welcome back key midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger for the Dublin match.
The Bayern Munich star will wear the armband for the suspended Philipp Lahm.
Lars Bender (Leverkusen), who succeeded as a makeshift right back against Greece, is injured, so the less mobile Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich) will probably come in, while Dortmund’s Marcel Schmelzer will get another chance to prove his international credentials on the left.
Per Mertesacker is expected to replace the injured Mats Hummels (bruised foot) in the heart of the defence.
But perhaps the most significant concern for Germany is the infighting that’s dogged the team since their Euro 2012 semi-final exit to Italy in Warsaw.
“There is friction (in the camp),” admitted Germany assistant manager Oliver Bierhoff at a press conference in Frankfurt.
“We’ve rarely had a situation where so many players felt they should start. We are happy and grateful this is the case. Of course, there will be some who’ll be unhappy about not getting in but the team spirit has been totally sound and I’m sure it will continue to be so.”
Germany leads the head-to-head record with seven wins while Ireland have taken the honours five times and there have been four draws.
The last time they met was a scoreless encounter at Croke Park in 2007.
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