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Opponents haunted by 'sloppy' rearguard

WITH A stunning record which has seen them never lose a World Cup qualifier away from home, Germany appeared to have little to worry about as they left their Frankfurt base early this morning and flew into Dublin to prepare for tomorrow's clash with Giovanni Trapattoni's men at Lansdowne Road.

But Bayern Munich defender Holger Badstuber admits that defensive frailties are a concern for his side ahead of their meeting with Ireland at the Dublin 4 venue.

Despite their ranking as the second-best team in the world, according to FIFA and their bizarre ranking system, the Germans have struggled at the back recently, with a run of just one clean sheet in their last seven internationals, and that was at home to the Faroe Islands last month.

"It is important to focus on the defence. We have been a bit sloppy there in the last games. Defensive work starts up at the front and that includes the whole team," said Badstuber, likely to win his 29th cap in defence tomorrow.

"We know roughly how they will play and that there will often be long balls coming. We have to be well organised and also get the ball forward quickly," added the 23-year-old.

Arsenal man Lukas Podolski has experience of playing against Ireland -- he scored the only goal of the game when the Germans beat Steve Staunton's side in Stuttgart at the start of the Euro 2008 campaign and he also played as a substitute in the 0-0 draw at Croke Park in 2007 which sealed qualification for the Germans, and he feels that the home crowd could be a factor.

"Ireland are a difficult opponent to play against with crazy fans. It is an uncomfortable contest. I think their fans are crazy but in a good way," said Podolski, who was with Bayern when he scored that goal against Shay Given in 2006 but is now based at the Emirates in London.

"I heard they have a new stadium, there will be 40,000 crazy fans of Ireland. It will be a difficult match, we need to prepare well. But of course we will travel there today and get the three points on Friday," he added.

German coach Hansi Flick insists that injury concerns Podolski and Mario Goetze will be fit, but defence is also a priority for him and the staff.

"Our focus is absolutely the defence. We have been working on the basics," said Flick.

"I think Trappatoni has analysed our team very well. So we expect their team to be strong in defending, that's the Italian school. They have a lot of passion, they put in a lot of energy and have a great dynamic in the offence.

"He is an absolute tactical genius and he will have some ideas."