5 German players who need stellar seasons to ensure World Cup spots

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Action Images / Carl Recine

The 2018 World Cup in Russia kicks off in a little more than eight months, and a handful of German internationals with caps under their belts face missing out on the quadrennial contest because of their domestic standing.

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Here's a look at five Die Mannschaft members who need cracking campaigns with their clubs to cement inclusion in Joachim Low's 23-man squad for the trip to Russia:

Kevin Trapp

Barring another long-term injury, Manuel Neuer will be Germany's No. 1, and with Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Bernd Leno retaining first-choice duties at Barcelona and Bayer Leverkusen, respectively, Kevin Trapp could be in danger of missing a trip to Russia should he continue to platoon with Alphonse Areola at Paris Saint-Germain.

Trapp, 27, has just the lone Germany cap against Denmark in June to show for his efforts, and after being PSG's No. 1 under Laurent Blanc, the Kaiserslautern academy product has lost the gig under Unai Emery. Pegged to emerge as one of the continent's next great shot-stoppers, Trapp's tenure with the Ligue 1 giant languishes in a limbo similar to his current Die Mannschaft standing.

Mario Gotze

Borussia Dortmund's cherubic attacker Mario Gotze isn't the only Die Mannschaft star to suffer from a slew of injuries, but he is the only to bag a World Cup-winning goal, and the 25-year-old will hope that's enough to convince Low.

A metabolic ailment has put his career on hold, though a pair of hour-long run-outs this season against Wolfsburg and Hertha Berlin have again put Gotze in the national team picture. Like with Borussia brethren Andre Schurrle (see below), Gotze's Russian hopes are tethered both to staying fit and the development of a host of emerging versatile talents who have moved their way through the youth rungs.

Ilkay Gundogan

It's hard not to feel for Ilkay Gundogan. The midfielder suffered from influenza and a series of pelvis, foot, shin, and ankle injuries before a dislocated patella sidetracked his 2015-16 campaign with Borussia Dortmund. Fit again, Gundogan made a £20-million move to Manchester City, and after 10 performances in the Premier League, the 20-time capped German ruptured a cruciate ligament.

Finally fit and with just one League Cup start against West Brom this season, Gundogan's World Cup chances are slim considering the wealth of midfielders at Pep Guardiola's disposal. The emergence of Emre Can and Leon Goretzka won't help Gundogan's hopes either, as the 26-year-old appears set to miss a third major tournament on the trot.

Andre Schurrle

Borussia Dortmund blondie Schurrle's failure to stay healthy could see the 26-year-old miss out on the quadrennial festivities in Russia. Currently hampered by a thigh injury, Schurrle missed a chunk of last season with knee and Achilles issue after a summer move from Wolfsburg.

Ordinarily, a player of Schurrle's ilk, if healthy, would be a certainty for a World Cup spot, but Germany is stacked in attack, and whether the Chelsea reject plays on the wing or as a second striker, he will face competition. Late bloomers Lars Stindl and Sandro Wagner could threaten Schurrle's spot, as could teammate Gotze. Both Schurrle and Gotze played a part in Brazil. Chances are that won't be the case in Russia.

Shkodran Mustafi

With Low likely to bring four centre-halves to Russia - and with Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, and Antonio Rudiger shoe-ins - one of Niklas Sule, Benedikt Howedes, or Shkodran Mustafi will get the nod, and the latter could risk missing out unless he repairs his relationship with Arsene Wenger.

Linked with a shock summer switch to Inter, the Arsenal centre-back's wage demands proved too rich for the Serie A side, cementing Mustafi's second season with the north London lot. That second campaign might not be as straightforward as his first after reports surfaced that he and Wenger butted heads over tactical decisions, prompting his benching versus Liverpool on the other side of the international break. If the former Valencia stud fails to secure first-team minutes at the Emirates, Low could be dissuaded from picking the 25-year-old 2014 World Cup winner.

(Photos courtesy: Action Images)