Spain vs France - Match preview and team news
The heavyweight clash of Group I sees World and European champions Spain welcome France to the Vicente Calderon. French boss Didier Deschamps faces his toughest task as national boss, as the Spanish side are on a 24-match winning run in international tournament qualifiers.
Vicente del Bosque’s side cruised to a 4-0 away victory against Belarus on Friday night and Barcelona winger Pedro struck an impressive hat-trick, which will surely keep him in the side. Andres Iniesta was rested on Friday, but is expected to return to the side and partner Pedro and Cesc Fabregas in the Spain front three. Sergio Busquets could be restored to his central midfield role and Raul Albiol could be brought into centre defence to counter the attacking threat France pose.
Spain sit atop the Group I standings with a maximum six points from two games and France will face a difficult task to keep out a side, who recently beat them 2-0 in the Euro 2012 quarter-final. Busquets and Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla are in line to make their 50th appearance for Spain, but are a long way from goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who will make his 137th cap for his country.
France also have two wins from two qualifying games against Finland and Belarus under new boss Didier Deschamps, who replaced Laurent Blanc following Euro 2012. The former Marseille manager has faced a tough start to his managerial career with Les Bleus with just two wins in their last six fixtures, including friendlies, and only four goals scored. Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema is without a goal in his last eight caps, but Deschamps is expected to keep faith with the 24 year old.
Friday night saw France with the night off from qualifying, but they were beaten 1-0 in a friendly fixture with Japan and Deschamps saw more defensive problems. PSG midfielder Clement Chantome suffered a groin injury and is ruled out of the trip to the home of Atletico Madrid, joining Abou Diaby and Rio Mavuba of Lille on the sidelines. However, Yohan Cabaye is back from a rib injury and could start in centre midfield. Manchester United left-back Patrice Evra is also available at left-back after recovering from a slight back problem.
The last five encounters between these two sides have seen four victories for Spain and France face an ominous trip across Europe. Vicente Del Bosque has his side playing beautiful football and they were clinical and impressive against Belarus, but the French side know a victory in Madrid will give them a huge confidence boost to carry them to the top of the table. Deschamps has not faced a tougher task than this during his short career so far in charge of Les Bleus and will be prepared for a hard night.
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