As the European Championship finals draws closer, national teams are busy testing their options before announcing the final squad for the showpiece event which starts in June 2016, France.
Russia will travel to Stade De France for the first time under new coach Leonid Slutsky after an easy win in Moscow against Lithuania on Saturday. Against a very strong France squad, the new Russian coach will face his first real test after taking over from Fabio Capello in July,2015. It will be an emotional game for the hosts as it is the first match for the national team inside Stade De France since the terrorist attacks in Paris last November.
After a disastrous start to the Euro qualification campaign, which led to the termination of Fabio Capello’s contract, Leonid Slutsky has breathed a new life into the Russian national team by defeating Sweden, Liechtenstein, Moldova and Montenegro to secure a place in Euro 2016. It was also impressive to see that almost the same set of players who failed under Fabio Capello scored 12 goals and conceded just a single goal in the final four qualifying matches.
The team mostly has an ageing squad but still has the capability to cause problems with their fast ball movement in the middle of park. But the CSKA Moscow coach has faced a full strength squad only once against Croatia where they lost 3-1, which gives his team plenty to prove against a young French squad. Saturday’s visitors will mostly look to play the waiting game as their previous matches against big teams were not based on possession but will depend heavily on their defence to repel the star studded French attacking lineup.
Line-Ups (4-1-4-1): Guilherme; Smolnikov, Ignashevich, Aleksei Berezutski, Kombarov; Mamayev; Ivanov, Dzjuba, Glushakov, Samedov; Smolov
Saturday’s hosts are one of the favorites going into Euro 2016 with a wealth of talent at their disposal and home conditions will only add up to that advantage. With the likes of Kingsley Coman, Anthony Martial, Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud available for selection, Didier Deschamps will look to give all his attackers time before he announces the final squad.
West Ham superstar Dimitri Payet, who has been impressive with his displays in Premier League, looks to be a sure starter against Russia after a scintillating display against the Netherlands last week. Leicester City’s Ngolo Kante who received his first international call up might get his first start in the France’s engine room alongside Paul Pogba and Captain Blaise Matuidi if Deschamps decides to rest Lassana Diarra for the tie. Les Blues’ game will mostly be based on their star attack as all their forwards were involved in three goals scored against the Dutch in Amsterdam.
Line-Ups (4-3-3): Mandanda; Digne, Koscielny, Varane, Jallet; Matuidi, Kante, Pogba; Martial, Griezmann, Coman.
- Under Slutsky the Russian defence have only conceded 4 goals in 7 matches losing just one match and winning 6 matches which include victories over Sweden and Portugal.
- Last time France faced Russia at the national stadium 16 years ago in 1999, Russia beat then World Champions 3-2.
- France have scored 13 goals in their last 6 international matches which will be the main focus for Russia going into the match.
Russia 1 – 3 France
Though Russians have been in good form, their victories against Sweden and Portugal came in the absence of their respective star attackers Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo but fell flat against a full strength Croatia last November. With France’s attack clicking into form against the Dutch, it will be a difficult for the Russian’s to contain Les Blues at their home.