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Wednesday 18 October 2017

Schalke's golden boy Draxler aims to be star man for stuttering Germany on home turf

EVERYONE loves the story of the home-town boy made good. Except in Germany, perhaps.

Even though Julian Draxler is a native of Gelsenkirchen who plays for Schalke and whose home turf is the venue for Germany's game against Ireland tonight, the 54,000 capacity stadium is not sold out.

Malta, who have lost 10 of their last 11 games, managed to get a sell-out crowd for last night's qualifier at home to Italy but today here in Gelsenkirchen there are still tickets available to see the world champions - and there is not an awful lot else to do in Gelsenkirchen on a Tuesday night in October.

But even the presence of golden boy Draxler in the squad is not enough to force the German FA to dust off the 'house full' signs. Draxler jokes that training sessions under the new boss of his club at Schalke, Roberto di Matteo, may be a stronger pull for the locals.

Yet he does admit that, after Saturday's poor show in Warsaw, this German team have to get their fans and their public back on side.

"We as players have no influence on tickets sold or not sold. We are happy if it's full but if it isn't we will try to play better to attract more people in," says Draxler, a player who has often been linked with a move to the Premier League and who has interested Arsene Wenger on more than one occasion.

Unbeatable

"We want to show the world that we would like to get back our unbeatable status as soon as possible.

"The team's self confidence is still there and is still big, we are still world champions even though we lost the game against Poland we are still title holders," he says, aware that Germany now have to make up points from their loss in Poland.

"As a footballer you want to win every game and the last thing you do is sit down and look at the table, try to calculate if you can afford to lose this game and still make it.

"If you are a professional player you want to win everything so we feel obliged to prove to our fans that we can still win games," Draxler added.

Winning games has been well beyond the talented young man who showed his immense potential when he made his first-team debut for Schalke when he was just 17. He has played in 11 games for his club and country since the World Cup was won in Brazil last summer.

And Draxler has yet to get a single win under his belt this season.

Germany have lost to Poland and Argentina (he missed the Euro 2016 win over Scotland).

In his Champions League appearances, Schalke have played out draws with Maribor and Chelsea. And the Bundesliga has been no better for Draxler as they side have yet to win a game he's played in and he was sent off in a match against Eintract Frankfurt. Hardly ideal preparation for a rare appearance for the national side on home soil.

Unlucky

"I haven't won a game yet, and I was unlucky to get sent off against Frankfurt," he says, stressing that he has overcome the flu which kept him out of the starting XI for Saturday's loss in Warsaw.

"Physically I am on a roll, I have overcome the cold that has sidelined me," he says.

"I knew I was not ready for the Poland game and I told the coach that I was not up to it and I was not ready for a full game.

"But I am ready to play and I really want to start the game against Ireland."

With a reported buy-out clause of €50million in his Schalke contract, it's no wonder that English clubs like Arsenal have stalled before making such a large purchase, with the world still waiting for €50m man Mesut Ozil to deliver value for money.

Tonight could be a big night for Draxler.

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