Second-strikers for Germany in Swiss clash
BERLIN, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Injuries and suspension mean Germany's substitute strikers have a chance to audition for one key qualifying role when they renew their friendly rivalry with Switzerland in Duesseldorf on Wednesday.
Lukas Podolski is ineligible for the 49th meeting between the two countries after picking up a two-match friendly ban for his sending-off against Georgia in October.
Of far more concern to coach Joachim Loew is that Miroslav Klose, Podolski's regular strike partner and top scorer at the World Cup, is suspended for the Euro 2008 Group D qualifier against Czech Republic in Prague on March 24.
Klose is in danger of missing Wednesday's game as well, after suffering a hand injury in Werder Bremen's defeat by Schalke 04 on Sunday, and that could mean an all new strike pairing against the Swiss.
Squad regular Mike Hanke will be confident of bagging one of the two places, with the recalled Kevin Kuranyi probably next in line.
German fans will be more excited about the prospect of seeing Mario Gomez win his first cap.
The 21-year-old son of a Spanish father and a German mother celebrated his first call-up by scoring his 11th Bundesliga goal of the season for VfB Stuttgart on Sunday.
'It's been a phenomenal week for me,' Gomez told reporters. 'Just to be here with the squad is a dream come true.'
Germany have 10 points from four Euro 2008 qualifiers and lead the group on goal difference from the Czechs.
Switzerland are already assured of qualification as co-hosts with Austria, and Wednesday's game against the team that finished third at the last World Cup will be a useful test.
Many in the Swiss team will consider the match as a home game, with a third of Koebi Kuhn's 21-man squad playing their club football in the Bundesliga.
Striker Alexander Frei is likely to come in for special attention from the German defence, having hit a rich vein of form for Borussia Dortmund recently, including two goals and an assist during last month's 3-2 win over Bayern Munich.
Frei's towering strike partner Marco Streller will meanwhile be hoping to steal some of the attention from Gomez, one of his rivals for a regular first team slot at Stuttgart.
Kuhn is relying on most of the young squad that played in last year's World Cup finals but is continuing to experiment between the posts.
Diego Benaglio and Fabio Coltorti are set to play a half each on Wednesday as they continue their tussle with World Cup goalkeeper Pascal Zuberbuehler.
Germany: Jens Lehmann; Arne Friedrich, Per Mertesacker, Christoph Metzelder, Philipp Lahm; Bernd Schneider, Torsten Frings, Michael Ballack, Bastian Schweinsteiger; Miroslav Klose or Mike Hanke, Kevin Kuranyi
Switzerland: Diego Benaglio/Fabio Coltorti, Ludovic Magnin, Patrick Mueller, Philippe Senderos, Valon Behrami, Tranquillo Barnetta, Xavier Margairaz, Johann Vogel, David Degen, Marco Streller, Alexander Frei.
Referee: Ruud Bossen (Netherlands)