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Low expects England to challenge for Euro glory

By Simon Peach

Germany head coach Joachim Low believes England are serious contenders for the Euro 2016 crown.

Roy Hodgson's men travel to Berlin this week as they step-up their preparations for France with a mouth-watering friendly against the World champions.

England reached this summer's finals with a 100 per cent record in qualification - the only country to manage the feat, although the level of opposition meant it was hardly a yardstick with which to accurately measure progress.

However, the match with Germany - who will face Northern Ireland in Paris in their final group game at the finals - on Saturday, like November's friendlies against Spain and France, will give a more accurate reflection of how the Three Lions are shaping up for a tournament Low expects them to challenge for.

"This will be a taste of what we can expect at the Euros," the Germany head coach said, speaking ahead of the friendlies against England and Italy.

"The opponents are both interesting and are two of the favourites to win the Championship. It will be a good test.

"The battle for places in the squad is seriously beginning now - there are still eight weeks until the end of the season.

"We have selected a large squad in order to speak with the players about what we expect. We are looking at their form and fitness as a whole."

Emre Can, Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger are the only Premier League representatives in Germany's 26-man squad for the upcoming friendlies.

The latter is slowly stepping up his return from a knee injury, having made just four appearances from the Manchester United bench since ending a two-month lay-off.

Being restricted to just 65 minutes means Low will tread carefully with team captain Schweinsteiger, who the German manager insists has not spoken about retiring after Euro 2016.

"No, there isn't (any arrangement), as it isn't something I would do before a tournament," he said of the 31-year-old. "For me this isn't a question at the moment.

"Bastian Schweinsteiger has been injured lately, so obviously he will have to recover first, because at the moment he isn't 100 per cent and there is no way he can be right now.

"However, there is still a relatively long time until the start of the tournament and he also didn't really complete a full training session with the squad ahead of the 2014 World Cup, but he recovered well and was present for the important matches.

"He knows his body well and knows what he has to do. He is still highly ambitious and will continue to perform well."

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