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All set for football’s biggies

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.

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.’

France are unbeaten in six confrontations since a Rudi Voeller brace gave West Germany a 2-1 victory back in 1987.


RIBERY EAGER TO FACE BAYERN TEAM  MATES

France winger Franck Ribery has said he is looking forward to Wednesday’s friendly international against Germany, which will pit him against his Bayern Munich team-mates in the German side.

Ribery starting on the left will see him against Thomas Muller. ‘It’ll be a tremendous duel with the pair of them,’ the 29-year-old, who joined Bayern in 2007, told FCBayern.de. ‘We’ll set aside our friendship for the 90 minutes. ‘I’m very familiar with how they play, but they know all about my game. ‘And that also goes for all six Bayern players likely to represent Germany in Paris on Wednesday.’


HODGSON HOPES TON-UP ASHLEY COLE TURNS JEERS TO CHEERS

England manager Roy Hodgson hopes Ashley Cole will be treated with respect when the much-maligned Chelsea defender wins his 100th international cap in Wednesday’s glamour friendly against Brazil. Cole has endured a difficult relationship with English fans, who regard him as one of the poster boys for all that is wrong with the modern game, but Hodgson is keen to see the left-back given a good reception by the Wembley crowd when he reaches the impressive century landmark.

“These are things that occurred in the distant past when I wasn’t even in the country,” said Hodgson. “The media have a lot of power and that does have an effect on people. It’s a fact of life. “If Ashley has had that treatment neither him or I can do anything about it. “I judge him as a football player. Is he going to be the right man to help England win football matches? That’s what really interests me.

“Over the last nine months I have found him a very good professional, who prefers to do his talking on the football field; but I see nothing wrong with that.” “As a player, he’s been a proper pro for many years in the Premier League and done some great things in the game. “He has been a key member of any team he has been involved with for season after season. “Does he get the credit he deserves? Not at times, no. He’s been in the set-up for such a long time, he’s been a key player and consistent for many years.


RONALDINHO SURPRISED BY RECALL

Ronaldinho admits he did not expect to be recalled by Brazil, but says he believes the squad he has returned to possesses sufficient quality to win the 2014 World Cup on home soil. After a year in the international wilderness, the 32-year-old forward is expected to feature in Brazil’s friendly game against England at Wembley on Wednesday. His performances saw him named in the team of the season, alongside Brazil team-mates Neymar, Paulinho, Lucas Moura and Fred, but he says his return to the national set-up still came as a surprise. ‘It wasn’t in my plans,’ he told reporters on Tuesday. ‘I played a very good season last year so I was hoping for it and I’m very glad that it came true. ‘There’s great pedigree in our team. I think we have all possibilities to win the World Cup. We have a mix of young players and experienced players. ‘I’m the most experienced, so I’ll do everything to help my team to win the World Cup.’

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