FIFA World Cup Qualifying Preview: Germany v Austria
By Football News
Germany begin a week that could see them qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup with a home fixture against Austria on Friday.
The Allianz Arena in Munich will play host to the Group C encounter, as Germany hope to continue their unbeaten record in qualifying.
Joachim Low's side have won five of their six fixtures in the group and top the standings with 16 points.
Austria, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland are all on 11 points in a battle for second, but if Germany slip up on Friday, their chances of reaching Brazil 2014 automatically could recede slightly.
A win will push Germany a match closer to qualifying for the World Cup though, a feat they could achieve if they also beat the Faroe Islands on Tuesday.
But they will be more focused on Friday's game against their traditional rivals first, a nation they have an excellent record against.
Germany have won their last eight matches against Austria and midfielder Sami Khedira is confident they can make it nine in a row.
"I think they will be two really important games," the Real Madrid man said.
"They can help us get our ticket for the World Cup. We have a week ahead of us, where we can practise more intensely and find ourselves. We are fitter and mentally fresh."
Much focus will be on attacking midfielder Mesut Ozil, who joined Arsenal on transfer deadline day from Real Madrid for a reported fee of £42.5million.
Ozil's arrival at the Emirates Stadium has been the subject of much discussion, with several of Real team-mates, including Khedira, voicing their displeasure at his departure.
Germany will be without midfield trio Bastian Schweinsteiger (knee), Mario Gotze (ankle) and Ilkay Gundogan (back) due to injury, with the likes of Sidney Sam and Max Kruse given an opportunity in their absence.
Low will also have concerns about his side's defence, having conceded nine goals in three friendlies through May, June and August.
They won just one of those fixtures and lost 4-3 to the United States, with Low sure to have spent plenty of time with his defenders on the training pitch in the build-up to Friday's fixture.
Austria - who have a crucial qualifier against Republic of Ireland to follow on Tuesday - lost their last game, suffering a 2-0 friendly defeat against Greece last month.
A three-match unbeaten run preceded that loss, which included a 2-1 win over Sweden and a 6-0 thrashing of the Faroe Islands.
David Alaba has been an unlikely source for goals for Austria, with the versatile 21-year-old - who plays at left-back for club side Bayern Munich - scoring three times in their five matches in 2013.
Alaba is one of nine German-based players in the Austria squad and they will be quietly hopeful of pulling off an upset after running Low's men close in the reverse fixture.
Germany won 2-1 in Vienna last September thanks to goals from Marco Reus and Ozil.