March 25, 2016

BERLIN (AP) Mario Gomez will start up front for Germany against England in Saturday's friendly, with coach Joachim Loew planning to start Mario Goetze against Italy in Munich three days later.

Gomez, who was omitted from Germany's World Cup-winning squad in 2014 due to fitness concerns following injury, is being given a chance to earn his place at the European Championship in France after an impressive season for Besiktas. Gomez has 19 goals in 26 Turkish league games.

''He's improved a lot. You can see it in every training session. You can see that he's gathered more confidence. He has taken a step forward in Turkey,'' Loew said on Friday. ''He will start tomorrow. He's earned it from his performances in training.''

Gomez, who has 25 goals in 61 games for Germany, last played in November 2015 in the 2-0 friendly defeat to France, a game overshadowed by the Paris attacks. His last two goals were against the Netherlands at Euro 2012.

Loew said he spoke to Goetze about the difficulties he was facing at Bayern Munich. Goetze, who scored the winning goal in extra time of the World Cup final against Argentina, has struggled for playing time at Bayern since making his way back from a groin injury sustained in the defeat to Ireland on Oct. 8.

''I hope he gets a few more appearances in Munich. That would help him. But we also have to help him with the national team,'' said Loew, who indicated that Goetze would likely make a substitute appearance against England before starting against Italy. ''I have to give him this playing time.''

Loew's counterpart, Roy Hodgson, was more secretive about his plans for the games against Germany and the Netherlands at Wembley on Tuesday.

''I prefer to keep the teams I have in mind in my head for the moment and not publish them,'' Hodgson said. ''It's not that vital to me to conceal our team, just I don't think it's enormously important either to publish the team the day before we play the game. I might be a little old-fashioned.''

Chelsea defender Gary Cahill will captain the side for the second time due to Wayne Rooney's injury-induced absence, and Hodgson said Arsenal forward Theo Walcott was being left out of Friday's training session.

''He took a knock yesterday. He's got a dead leg. He could train, it's not serious, but we decided to leave him out,'' Hodgson said.

The England coach was playing down the games' importance while simultaneously stressing how important they could be.

''They are two further games in our preparations for France, for the Euros, and we have three more when the final squad's selected, so it's by all means not a be-all, end-all situation, but at the same time we taking them very seriously. I shall learn some very important lessons I'm sure,'' the 68-year-old former Switzerland, Inter Milan and Liverpool coach said.

''I can't guarantee that every single player will get 90 minutes in a game, but we are in principle thinking of using the whole squad to have a look at people and at least give them a chance.''

Loew did not reveal what advice he gave Goetze regarding his club future but held out the possibility that he might feature more under incoming Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti than he does currently under Pep Guardiola.

''It's important that he has a talk with the incoming coach, how he fits in with his plans. That's the first thing he has to do,'' Loew said.

Loew said both friendlies provided important preparation opportunities for Euro 2016 in France.

''They're a great stage upon which players in one or the other game, or in both games, can get themselves noticed by the selectors before we pick the final squad,'' he said.

He paid tribute to the progress made by England, and to the work done by Hodgson.

''He has a lot of experience. I know him very well from Switzerland,'' Loew said. ''His teams are generally extremely well organized and structured. Whether it was Switzerland or other teams, like England now, it's very difficult to score goals against his sides. The results in qualification show that. They're also good on counter-attacks. Tomorrow we'll meet an opponent that has grown stronger.''

The Germany coach indicated he would experiment and try a few ideas against England.

''The result is not the most important thing. I want to see a good game. We haven't played together in a long time. It will be an interesting game, with both teams playing openly, both teams want to win the game.''

Loew said he was confident that increased security measures would ensure the safety of all players and fans in Berlin on Saturday, and at Euro 2016.

''We're going through a potentially hazardous time in life. Security is the focus of course,'' Loew said. ''I don't think any of us would want to play a game in an empty stadium. It would be disastrous if it came to that, it must be clearly said.''

Hodgson said he had trust in the security arrangements.

''We have people around us ... who work hard to make us feel secure,'' the England coach said. ''I don't think we can do very much more than trust that their methods and measures they put in place will be sufficient for us to play the game in the secure way we'd like to play the game.''

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