France have Georgia, and not Spain, on their mind
PARIS (Reuters) - France coach Didier Deschamps will ram home the message that his side must focus on beating Georgia on Friday and not think about the looming clash with Spain as their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign takes a decisive turn.
Les Bleus, who have dramatically improved since exiting Euro 2012 in the quarter-finals, are second in Group I with seven points from three games and trail Spain on goal difference.
Tuesday's clash against the world champions in Paris will not count for much, Deschamps said, if France cannot first beat Georgia at the Stade de France.
"In our qualifying campaign, if the match against Spain is to mean anything, we first need to win against Georgia," Deschamps told reporters.
"For the fans, it's as if the Georgia game had already been won. We are not going to say that Georgia are one of the best teams in Europe but they have good players and they are aggressive."
Georgia, third in the group with four points from as many games, will likely set out to frustrate the hosts by defending in depth.
"Georgia defended very well against Spain. We could face the same situation," said Deschamps, referring to Spain's 1-0 win in Tbilisi in September, earned by a late Roberto Soldado goal.
"They will come to defend well. We will have to find opportunities to score. We will try to have a team who take control of the ball and creates problems."
Deschamps is set to shuffle his side with midfielders Maxime Gonalons, Yohan Cabaye and Blaise Matuidi, as well as centre back Laurent Koscielny, facing suspension if they get booked on Friday.
"The risk of suspension is an extra danger," Deschamps admitted.
One option is to rest Koscielny and field Real Madrid's teenage defender Raphael Varane alongside Mamadou Sakho.
Varane, 19, has been impressive with Real lately and has already been called up twice although he had to leave the squad because of injuries.
In the midfield, Deschamps may hand Juventus prodigy Paul Pogba his first cap, especially with the 20-year-old blessed with the ability to score from long range - a rarity in the France team.
It will not solve, however, Karim Benzema's scoring problem.
The Real Madrid striker has not scored in the last 10 internationals and has come under fire from a French newspaper because he does not sing the national anthem before a game.
"Singing La Marseillaise will not help me score a hat trick," Benzema told French radio RMC on Tuesday.
"The problem is that I haven't scored with France for a while."
France - Hugo Lloris; Christophe Jallet, Mamadou Sakho, Raphael Varane, Patrice Evra; Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi, Mathieu Valbuena, Moussa Sissoko, Franck Ribery; Karim Benzema
Georgia - TBA
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Justin Palmer)
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