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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Germany Plays Azerbaijan, With One Eye on Russia

APPer Mertesacker, a defense player on Germany's national soccer team, answering a question at a news conference in Barsinghausen, Germany, lower Saxony, on Tuesday.

FRANKFURT — Germany will have one eye on Cardiff when it plays Azerbaijan in World Cup qualifying on Wednesday.

Germany needs to win in Hannover to remain ahead of Russia in Group 4 and will be hoping at the same time that Wales can take at least a point in Cardiff against the Russians.

"Everyone is already speaking about the game in Russia, but Wednesday's game is very important," midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger said. "We have to get three points, otherwise we need not even talk about the Russia game."

After seven rounds of matches, Germany leads the group with 19 points, one more than Russia. The two leaders clash in Moscow on Oct. 10 in a match that will likely decide the winner of the group and who gets automatic qualification for next year's World Cup in South Africa.

The top eight runners-up in European qualifying then go into a playoff round.

"We have to concentrate on ourselves," Hitzlsperger said. "But we lost points in Finland (a 3-3 draw) so why can't it happen that Russia also drops points away from home."

Midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger said the upcoming games against Azerbaijan, Russia and Finland would be decisive.

"We have to win them. Azerbaijan is not so bad as people assume and an early goal Wednesday would be worth gold," Schweinsteiger said.

Germany won 2-0 in Azerbaijan in a tepid display against the team coached by former Germany boss Berti Vogts. Azerbaijan has only one point from seven games.

In the third Group 4 match Wednesday, Finland travels to Liechtenstein, which also has one point. Finland is third in the group with 13 points, while Wales has nine.

Mathematically, Wales could still finish as runner-up if it wins its last three games and Russia doesn't earn another point, which seems highly unlikely.

"We really can't qualify now, but we have to look ahead to the next qualifying campaign (Euro 2012) and make sure that we all gain as much experience as we can in these final three group matches," Wales central defender James Collins said.

"We have heard a lot about the promise of the youngsters and the potential of this squad, but it is about time we started to produce results against the big countries. If we want to qualify, we have to start getting the wins," he said.

Arsenal's Andrei Arshavin and new Chelsea acquisition Yury Zhirkov flew to Cardiff after missing Russia's 3-0 home win over Liechtenstein.

"The tactics in the match in Cardiff will depend on whether Arshavin and Zhirkov will play," Russia coach Guus Hiddink said. "Their condition is improving, but the doctors will make the final decision immediately before the match."

Zhirkov has been out with a knee injury that he aggravated during Chelsea's preseason tour of the United States. Arshavin picked up a thigh injury during Arsenal's defeat at Manchester United last month.

Hiddink will be without midfielder Igor Denisov, who received a yellow card on Saturday and is suspended.

Germany warmed up for Azerbaijan by beating World Cup host South Africa 2-0 in a friendly Saturday.

The Germans will be without goalkeeper Robert Enke, who is out with the flu. Coach Joachim Loew has been rotating his goalkeepers, but Enke had been scheduled to play Wednesday. Either Rene Adler or Manuel Neuer will take his place.

Striker Mario Gomez, who scored a goal against South Africa, has overcome pain in his right knee and was back in training.