World champions Germany make their Euro 2016 bow in Lille on Sunday night, when they come up against a Ukraine side who have been more interested in fighting amongst themselves of late.
There are plenty of new faces in the German squad from Brazil two years ago, but as our renowned German football expert Raphael Honigstein points out, they tend to click into gear once tournaments begin.
Their opponents Ukraine are profiled by Eastern European football guru Jack Beresford, who claims that Joachim Löw’s side won’t have it all their own way.
Raphael Honigstein on Germany: Joachim Löw lost centre-back Antonio Rüdiger on the eve of the tournament. Jonathan Tah, the replacement call-up will be kept in reserve though, as Benedikt Höwedes come in to partner Jérôme Boateng at the heart of a pretty inexperienced defence in the absence of Mats Hummels, who is not fully fit yet.
Jonas Hector of 1. FC Köln will definitely start on the left, Joshua Kimmich or Emre Can will get the nod on the right. The central midfield is set: Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos and Mesut Özil just in front of them.
Thomas Müller is certain to play on the right of attack. On the left, the choice is between Julian Draxler of Wolfsburg and Mario Götze, who could also start in the central striking role instead of Mario Gomez. There are no other known injury worries.
Jack Beresford on Ukraine: Ukraine have no major injury concerns going into Sunday’s opener, though there are worries around squad harmony.
Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Taras Stepanenko has been critical of international teammate Andriy Yarmolenko following a heated confrontation with the Dynamo Kyiv man during a Ukrainian Premier League game.
Yarmolenko was guilty of lashing out at Stepanenko in a confrontation that sparked red cards for both players and a mass melee between the two sides, who provide the bulk of Ukraine’s squad.
While manager Mykhaylo Fomenko has called on the players to settle their differences ahead of the tournament, the rift has not helped Ukraine’s Euro 2016 preparations.
Likely to stick to the defensive 4-2-3-1 that got them through qualifying, with Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka counter-attacking from the flanks, recent outings suggest the industrious Roman Zozulya will get the nod over Viktor Kovalenko in the lone striker role with the team otherwise largely settled.
Honigstein: Germany, hung over from the World Cup triumph, were beaten by Ireland and Poland in a poor qualifying campaign. Löw experimented throughout the two years, trying out different formations and personnel in the friendlies, too, with mixed results.
After losing to England (2-3) and beating Italy convincingly (4-1), Germany lost against Slovakia (1-3) and beat Hungary (2-0). Not too much should be read into these matches though. The Nationalmannschaft tend to start clicking once the tournament gets going in earnest.
Beresford: Pipped to automatic qualification by Slovakia, Ukraine bounced back with a solid victory over Slovenia in the playoffs – their first triumph in five qualification play-off ties.
Yarmolenko was the key man, scoring the opener in a 2-0 home victory before sealing progress with a late equaliser in the 1-1 return leg. Fomenko’s team have looked solid in warm-up friendlies, claiming victories over fellow Euro 2016 combatants Wales, Albania and Romania.
That Romania result was also significant for 19-year-old winger Oleksandr Zinchenko, who broke Andriy Shevchenko’s record as Ukraine’s youngster ever international goalscorer.
Honigstein: This team relies on its collective play and cohesion to overcome deficiencies at the back and up front, so it’s hard to point to one man being key.
Maybe Toni Kroos has the greatest responsibility on Sunday night: the Real Madrid midfielder needs to protect the back four, as there’s no holding midfielder behind him, and at the same time orchestrate the attacks. Oh, and he takes corners and free-kicks, too.
Beresford: Yarmolenko was Ukraine’s top scorer in qualifying with six goals and will look to exploit the relative inexperience of Jonas Hector by cutting inside at pace from the right wing.
The 26-year-old bagged 16 goals in 32 games for Dynamo this season and a Germany side that has conceded in each of its last four qualifiers will be wary of a player courted by several Premier League clubs.
Honigstein: Germany Draw no Bet 1.20. Germany will not lose to Ukraine, despite their problems. A 20 per cent return with insurance for a draw is pretty good deal in my book.
Beresford: Ukraine are likely to play it ultra conservative, with Stepanenko and Denis Garmash screening a back four led by Evgen Khacheridi. Provided things go to plan for Ukraine a 0-0 half-time score at 2.80 looks a great bet.
Honigstein: Höwedes is excellent in the air, and Germany have practiced dead-balls extensively. Take him to score at any time at 15.00.
Beresford: Yarmolenko has netted in five of Ukraine's last six games, opened the scoring last time they met Germany and is 4.40 to score at any time.
Honigstein: Germany 2-0 Ukraine at 7.50
Beresford: Germany 1-1 Ukraine at 8.50