Good evening. A brief preview of tomorrow's (Friday's) World Cup qualifier action, from a slightly Bayern-centered perspective.
Ireland vs. Germany
As we know, Philipp Lahm will miss the match due to suspension. Digibet says that Mario Goetze, who had been bothered by a thigh injury, will be available. And the Pakistani Daily Times says that Hummels is out with a bruised foot. With that information, we can agree that the back line will be shuffled (possibly with a Mertesacker sighting?) against Ireland. Although, in the last international match, a 2-1 win over Austria, the defense gave up a lot of space, so perhaps a bit of a remix wouldn't be a bad idea.
Within Group C, Ireland is one of three teams, joined by Sweden and Austria, who would have a serious hope of getting past this stage along with Germany (no offense to Kasakhstan or Faroe Islands - just giving the conventional wisdom). In their only WC qualifier so far, Ireland needed a pair of late goals to sneak away with a dramatic win vs. Kasakhstan. And they looked slow and sleepy in this summer's European Championships. But they do have a bit of firepower in Shane Long, and young James McCarthy - I mean, they probably have at least as threatening an attack as Austria, who undressed Germany a few times last match. So Germany will need to be awake from the start.
Also, Ireland's Robbie Keane is out with an Achilles tendon injury. Our thanks to Kate L for the update.
Netherlands vs. Andorra
Bayern's Arjen Robben will miss this one, along with Sneijder and van der Wiel. But you still have to feel like the Dutch are heavy favorites against an Andorra side that has yet to score in their two losses. The Dutch are a perfect two-for-two so far in this qualifying campaign under Mr. van Gaal. Both of their wins have come over Turkey and Hungary, possibly the best other teams in the group, so they're in a very favorable position. Netherlands supporters will also be keeping an eye on the Romania vs. Turkey match. Romania is the only other team in Group D on six points; if Netherlands can win and Turkey can win or draw, the Dutch will be alone at the top of the group table. Still early, of course, but that would be a big confidence booster for a national side that really needs one after this past summer's debacle.
Belarus vs. Spain
Bayern's Javi Martinez is expected to feature, possibly at CB (with Puyol's recent gruesome injury). I like Al-Jazeera's take, too: they're pitching it as "revenge" for Javi after BATE's recent win over Bayern in the Champions League. Belarus has failed to show much so far this qualifier season, with losses to France and Georgia. But it is a long trip from Spain, and it's currently raining there, so perhaps they have a chance to spring an upset (or at least come away with a point).
Croatia vs. Macedonia
I might have read this wrong ... Croatia played Macedonia only a month ago, and now will play them again? There has to be some explanation here, but I can't discern what it is. Anyway, Bayern's Mario Mandzukic will probably see a few chances against Macedonia's defense. The Croatians are level at the top of the group along with Belgium and Serbia; those two play each other, so a big win by Croatia could put them in a very enviable position.
I've had a crazy busy week and may not be able to put up a Match Day Thread, so consider this your Match Day Thread if I don't get around to it. Sorry, I will be back in game shape by next week. Also, I've been in contact with our tech guys, and they're rolling out final fixes to the new site layout this weekend/next week. I've you've been having trouble reading or leaving comments (especially on the mobile version), this will hopefully be resolved soon. Thanks for reading.