‘One of the best’: Germany’s Werner eyes Van Dijk duel

Timo Werner is expected to lead the attack for Germany in the Euro 2020 qualifier. (Reuters pic)

BERLIN: Germany striker Timo Werner admits he will quite literally be playing in the shadow of Dutch defender Virgil Van Dijk when Joachim Loew’s side host the Netherlands in Hamburg on Friday in a clash of the European powerhouses.

In-form Werner, 23, is expected to lead the attack for Germany in the Euro 2020 qualifier, as he returns to the starting XI in the absence of Manchester City winger Leroy Sane, who tore knee ligaments last month.

The 1.80m-tall RB Leipzig striker said he was looking forward to facing Liverpool defender and 2019 Fifa Best Player candidate Van Dijk, who towers over him at 1.93m.

“If I stand next to him, it gets dark pretty quickly,” joked Werner at a press conference on Tuesday.

“He is one of the best defenders in the world, if not the best. It is fun to play against such players.”

Werner’s Germany know all about Van Dijk as the burly defender nodded home a late header to snatch a 2-2 draw for the Dutch in Gelsenkirchen last November, which relegated the hosts from the top tier of the Nations League.

The Germans avenged the draw when Nico Schulz’s late winner sealed a 3-2 victory in Amsterdam last March in a Euro 2020 qualifier.

The Germans are looking to extend their perfect record of three wins from three Group C fixtures, while Van Dijk’s Netherlands badly need to win in Hamburg to stay in the hunt to reach the finals with just three points from their first two qualifiers.

However, first they must contain Werner, who has begun the season in blistering form, scoring five goals in Leipzig’s first three Bundesliga games.

He has had less luck with the national team of late, having started on the bench in each of his last three call-ups for Germany.

The 23-year-old, who signed a new contract with Leipzig last week, said he was ready to fight for his place in Joachim Loew’s team.

“There’s a space free in attack now because of Leroy Sane’s unfortunate injury,” he said.

“I am of course motivated to play as well for Germany as I have done for Leipzig. I believe I can do that.”