BERLIN (AP) — Mario Gomez will start up front for Germany against England in Saturday's friendly, with coach Joachim Low planning to start Mario Gotze 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," Low 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.
Low said he spoke to Gotze about the difficulties he was facing at Bayern Munich. Gotze, 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 the 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 Low, who indicated that Gotze would likely make a substitute appearance against England before starting against Italy. "I have to give him this playing time."
Low did not reveal what advice he gave Gotze 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 his with his plans. That's the first thing he has to do," Low said.
Low 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 his counterpart Roy Hodgson, who previously coached Switzerland and Inter Milan.
"He has a lot of experience. I know him very well from Switzerland," Low 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 counterattacks. 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."
Low 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," Low 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."