Evian: Germany will have to decide on the eve of their Euro 2016 round of 16 match against Slovakia on Sunday whether defender Jerome Boateng can help them to another clean sheet en route to what they hope is their fourth continental crown.
Boateng returned to training on Saturday after overcoming a muscle injury and appeared fit for Sunday's Euro 2016 round of 16 clash against Slovakia.
Boateng picked up a calf muscle injury towards the end of their 1-0 victory over Northern Ireland this week and his participation on Sunday was in doubt.
He did not train with the team on Friday, undergoing an individual session involving cycling and jogging, and seemed fit on Saturday, as Germany prepare for their departure to Lille later in the day.
The 27-year-old, who has resumed his World-Cup winning partnership in central defence with Mats Hummels, has helped the world champions keep a clean sheet in all three of their group stage matches in the tournament so far.
Boateng has been crucial for the German defence which has yet to concede a goal in this tournament. He had renewed his World Cup-winning partnership in the central defence with Mats Hummels, with both players only recently back from injury.
They will need all the defensive prowess they can muster if they are not to replicate the mistakes that led to their 3-1 loss to the Slovaks in their friendly international on a rain-drenched pitch in May.
A new pitch has been laid in Lille after heavy rain and frequent play had damaged it irreparably. Germany, who won the tournament in 1972, 1980 and 1996, are prepared for the game, keeper Manuel Neuer said.
"We have to keep a clean sheet," Neuer told reporters on Friday. "We know that we can concede goals as well. But so far we have defended well and in knockout games we want to keep a clean sheet."
Slovakia's Marek Hamsik and Vladimir Weiss will have their work cut out against the solid German backline, with full backs Jonas Hector and Joshua Kimmich in fine form.
Hamsik has been in equally stellar form, drilling in one goal and setting up another in their 2-1 victory over Russia in the group.
He had scored a similarly spectacular long-range effort against the Germans in their friendly victory last month but it is unlikely the world champions will give him so much space again.
"You just have to look at a Youtube video with his goals," said Neuer of Hamsik. "It will be important that our holding midfielders stop him early and he does not get a chance to shoot."
Slovakia's much bigger task, however, will be to somehow slow down their opponents' quick passing game that on a good day can rip any defensive plan to shreds.
Despite having yet to find their perfect mix in attack, Germany have more than double the efforts on goal than their opponents in the entire tournament.
With average possession of 65 percent and passing accuracy at a staggering 91 percent, Germany are expected to maintain their pressure throughout the game as they look for a last eight spot.
"The huge euphoria is maybe not there yet (in Germany) but if we beat Slovakia and then play against a big opponent then we can say we have arrived at the tournament," Neuer said.