By Karolos Grohmann
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany may be missing more than half a dozen key players through injuries, including their top strikers, but anything other than automatic World Cup qualification with a win over Ireland on Friday will be a disappointment, officials said.
Germany coach Joachim Loew will be without his starting strikers Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose as well as defender Marcel Schmelzer, twins Sven and Lars Bender, Lukas Podolski and offensive midfielder Marco Reus among others.
"We always hope that in the autumn to have all players fully fit but there are times when players are stretched every three days with matches," team manager Oliver Bierhoff told a news conference in Duesseldorf.
"Those who have been playing continuously are fully fit but the bad thing is that some (footballers) are missing because demands on players have been high during the past weeks."
Germany need two points from their last two games against Ireland in Cologne and away to Sweden four days later to top Group C and advance to next year's World Cup finals in Brazil.
"Anything other than automatic qualification against Ireland would be disappointing," said Bierhoff. "Despite the injuries, we have to be ambitious enough to dominate the game and win it."
Germany are on 22 points from eight games with Sweden in second place, five points off the pace.
Bierhoff also brushed off criticism that a lack of attackers could be a problem, with Max Kruse the only designated forward in Loew's squad.
"We are missing about nine players but I did not sense any panic among the coaches. I only saw the trust in the players that we know well.
"What is important is to fill the positions and we have alternatives like Thomas Mueller, who has shown this season how dangerous he is up front and Max (Kruse) is also as a forward."
For Bastian Schweinsteiger, who will reach 100 caps if he plays in both games, a win over Ireland would be the first step towards winning that elusive first international trophy with Germany since 1996.
"It is my aim to become the best team in the world," said the midfielder, who returns after missing the last few matches, through injury.
"Hundred caps is not something you expect to happen. I hope to play many more matches and enjoy success."
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Pritha Sarkar)