Cologne defender Jonas Hector faces a race against time to be fit for next summer's World Cup, but Germany coach Joachim Löw can tuck into his Christmas pudding without fear of indigestion, safe in the knowledge that he has plenty of alternatives to consider.

Hector, who has been Löw's first-choice left full-back since 2015, is currently sidelined with a knee ligament injury. The 27-year-old is confident of making a return in the new year, when he will try to prove his fitness in the run-up to the May cut-off for squad selections, but Löw can count on the calibre of four further full-backs, all vying for a slice of the action, and all able to provide convincing arguments to be picked.

Hertha Berlin's Marvin Plattenhardt has started two of Germany's four fixtures since Hector's misfortune ruled him out, yet when Löw opted for a three-man defence, he favoured Leipzig's Marcel Halstenberg as a wing-back.

Philipp Max (Augsburg, 23 years old)

Philipp Max's assists have been one of the reasons why Augsburg have been on fire this season.

That is not to say that FC Augsburg's in-form Philipp Max (pictured above), who has yet to make his senior Germany debut, or Marcel Schmelzer, who last pulled on a Germany shirt in 2014, must end any hope they have of sneaking into contention.

Löw likes to cover as many bases with one pick, favouring flexibility and versatility in his selections, and this could encourage Max, who excelled in a more advanced role in Augsburg's 1-0 win over RB Leipzig. Surprisingly, he did not provide the assist for that goal, since he is currently the Bundesliga's leading assist provider this season with seven, and a goal to boot – quite a return for a dynamic full-back.

Marvin Plattenhardt (Hertha Berlin, 25)

Watch: Marvin Plattenhardt's collection of stunning free-kicks!

Plattenhardt's no stranger to wing play either, and he knows what Löw is looking for. "I'm asked to push up as much as I can," he said of his time on international duty. "Then all I've got to do is cross the ball or shoot." Having the ball helps and there are few around who relish possession as much as ball-loving Plattenhardt. Indeed, he is not only the most frequent possessor of the ball in Hertha Berlin's team, he invariably ensures something happens as he marauds down the left.

Marcel Halstenberg (RB Leipzig, 26)

Marcel Halstenberg made a mature debut for Germany in a friendly against England.

Halstenberg (pictured above) made his Germany debut in the goalless draw with England in November, and he pleased Löw with his performance. "He didn't show any nerves – which you might expect playing in front of 80,000 at Wembley Stadium - and played an intelligent game; he is certainly a player we could do with in this position," said the Germany coach of the Leipzig player, who is happy to be involved in a five-way fight for what may end up being just two places on the final squad selection. "Football thrives on competition," he said. "All I have to do is focus on myself."

Marcel Schmelzer (Borussia Dortmund, 29)

Off the international scene for several years, Marcel Schmelzer would bring experience and authority to the World Cup holders.

Wise words from the 26-year-old, who may still have some way to go before matching the wisdom of Borussia Dortmund captain Marcel Schmelzer. The 29-year-old has become The Black and Yellows' voice of authority, giving out the orders on the field, elaborating his growing understanding and influence, while taking responsibility off the field too as the first figure to face the cameras.

With Schmelzer, Löw knows he is getting honesty and reliability, and these could be crucial characteristics in Russia when the Germany coach may need experienced heads to help his team in their mission to defend their crown.

Follow Max and Plattenhardt as they go head-to-head on Matchday 15, in the Augsburg vs Hertha match centre here!