No Mario Gomez, no Sami Khedira, no Mats Hummels – Germany need to show their strength in depth when they face France in the second semifinal of Euro 2016. In what should be one of the matches of the tournament, Joachim Low will hope Germany's fortunes will not be defined by the absences of some of their key players.
Wales struggled to cope without Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies in their semifinal against Portugal, and while Germany have been boosted by Bastian Schweinsteiger being passed fit in time, they will need to overcome the losses of Khedira, Gomez and Hummels, who is suspended for this match in Marseille.
Germany have the best defensive record in Euro 2016, conceding just one goal all tournament, when Leonardo Bonucci struck a penalty home for Italy in the quarterfinals. One of the key players in the defence has been Hummels, so Low will hope Benedikt Howedes, expected to slot in beside Jerome Boateng will step up in the newly-minted Bayern Munich player's absence.
The Germans played with a back three in the quarterfinal, to go man-for-man against Italy, but Low is expected to go back to a back-four, with Howedes and Boateng pairing up as the central defenders, while Joshua Kimmich and Jonas Hector will be on either side.
Khedira has started every game for Germany so far, but having been forced off in the 16th minute of the penalty shootout victory over Italy with a groin injury, he will miss this semifinal, with Schweinsteiger, who was also a doubt for this final four clash, set to take his place in the starting XI, having recovered in time. Had Schweinsteiger not made it, Julian Weigl or Emre Can would have started.
"I have the team in my head and Bastian Schweinsteiger will definitely start," Low told reporters on Wednesday. "I always said that if he trains 100% without complaints then he will play.
"He trained this morning and had no complaints. The injury is cured and he showed against Italy he's got the strength to play from the start, and I believe he's very, very important, particularly in such a game -- his experience is very valuable."
Mario Gotze is the player expected to come in for Gomez, who has been ruled out of the tournament with a hamstring injury, while Julian Draxler will also get a start alongside Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller, having started on the bench against Italy as Low decided to add an extra defender to the starting lineup.
While Germany struggle with injuries and suspensions, France have no such worries, with the hosts sending out a signal to their opponents with the brilliant attacking display against Iceland. Olivier Giroud, who scored two goals in the 5-2 victory over Iceland, should start the semifinal for France, despite carrying a slight knee injury, which restricted him to a light training session on Tuesday.
Didier Deschamps has a couple of starting XI decisions to make for this semifinal. Adil Rami and N'Golo Kante missed the quarterfinal defeat of Iceland through suspension, but their replacements Samuel Umtiti and Moussa Sissoko were a part of a victorious France side.
Umtiti, the new Barcelona signing, will hope to keep his place alongside Laurent Koscielny, but Kante could come in for Sissoko, even if that might mean reverting to a 4-3-3 from a 4-2-3-1. Antoine Griezmann, though, has looked best when playing behind Giroud, and the fact that the Atletico Madrid man has struck up such a good understanding with the Arsenal striker could lead to Sissoko keeping his place on the right.
The problem with not playing Kante, however, is that it means France will not have a true defensive midfielder, and against opponents of Germany's pedigree, that is fraught with danger.
Confirmed starting XI: Germany: Manuel Neuer; Joshua Kimmich, Jerome Boateng, Benedikt Howedes, Jonas Hector; Bastian Schweinsteiger, Emre Can; Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos, Julian Draxler; Thomas Muller.
France: Hugo Lloris; Bacary Sagna, Samuel Umtiti, Laurent Koscielny, Patrice Evra; Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi; Moussa Sissoko, Antoine Griezmann, Dimitri Payet; Olivier Giroud.