France come into this fixture on the back of a late win secured against a resilient Romanian side. The tournament hosts weren’t at their best on opening night and will want to use the confidence from their victory against Romania to dish out a much better performance against debutants Albania and confirm group qualification.
Dimitri Payet was the man of the moment in Saint Denis in France’s opening fixture against Romania as the West Ham midfielder buried a thunderous left-footed shot past Ciprian Tătăruşanu to win the game for a relieved Didier Deschamps. The French were threatening in attack but failed to convert a number of chances that begged to be finished.
The hosts though can afford no such lapse in performance levels as they take the field against Albania knowing that victory could seal progress through to the knockouts. On the other hand, tournament debutants Albania come at the back of a 1-0 loss suffered at the hands of Switzerland. However there were loads of positives to take from the game for Gianni De Biassi who was disappointed his side didn’t come away with at least a point considering the number of chances they were gifted with.
The Italian boss knows that in France, they face a team with a far superior level of talent and competency than Switzerland but should his side be able to put up a spirited display like they did at Lens, he knows Les Bleus will have reason to take his side seriously. The minnows can also take heart from a 1-0 defeat they effected on the French a year ago back in home territory. However De Biassi himself will admit things are much different this time around.
Team News and Tactics
France are expected to go ahead with the same team that took the field against Romania with a 4-3-3 formation led by an attack with Olivier Giroud on top, flanked by Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet on the wings. There are a lot of options in attack for France and a few in other areas of the park to choose from as well. However the midfield combination looks to be settled with N’Golo Kante sitting deep behind Blaise Matuidi and Paul Pogba.
Defence is an area Deschamps’ may be inclined to tinker with in the game against Albania. Adil Rami and Laurent Koscielny were solid in the first game and could keep their place, however there are chances Lyon’s Samuel Umtiti may be tested in this fixture and could fill in for one of them. Patrice Evra had a decent game barring the incident that saw him concede a penalty to let Romania slip back into the tie on the night. He could be preferred once again over Lucas Digne tomorrow with Bacary Sagna set to take his spot in right-back.
Anthony Martial and Kinglsey Coman were lively upon coming on last week and could expect substitute appearances this time as well with Deschamps keen to stick to the existing attacking front three. There are no injury problems facing Les Bleus going into this fixture with all the members of the squad available for selection.
Possible Starting XI (4-3-3): Lloris, Sagna, Rami, Koscielny, Evra, Kante, Matuidi, Pogba, Payet, Griezmann, Giroud
Albania must fill a hole in their side after their captain Lorik Cana was sent off against Switzerland. Ergys Kace is one of several candidates vying to replace Cana while the skipper serves a one-game suspension. It’ll be a big decision for De Biassi as he needs his back-line to be as solid as ever if they are to have any chances of staying in the competition. Goalkeeper Etrit Berisha did not cover himself in glory in the opening game but is unlikely to be dropped owing to his importance in the squad and his experience.
Apart from that, Albania are expected to make little changes for the game against the hosts tomorrow with Armando Sadiku leading an attack at the top of a 4-3-3 formation with Ermir Lenjani and Roshi flanking him on the sides. Taulant Xhaka had a decent outing against the Swiss last week and is expected to take his place in midfield this time around alongside Burim Kukeli and Amir Abrashi.
With Lorik Cana suspended, defensive-minded Ergys Kace could get a look into the starting line-up tomorrow with Ansi Agolli, Mergim Mavraj and Elseid Hysaj completing the back-line for the Albanians. De Biassi’s side have no injury problems going into the fixture and except for the absence of Lorik Cana, he’s expected to field a familiar line-up tomorrow against the French.
Possible starting XI (4-3-3): Berisha, Hysaj, Kace, Mavraj, Agolli, Abrashi, Kukeli, Xhaka, Roshi, Sadiku, Lenjani.
- France have won four of the six matches played against Albania but have failed to win either of the last two meetings (D1, L1).
- Albania have never scored more than once in a game against France (three goals scored in six matches).
- Albania have never beaten Les Bleus in France, conceding nine goals across three games and scoring only once in return (D1, L2).
- France have played at the Stade Velodrome twice in the European Championships, losing to Czechoslovakia in 1960 (0-2) but beating Portugal in 1984 (3-2). Both games saw them concede twice.
- France have won their last six games on home soil in the European Championships (5 in 1984, 1 in 2016).
- France have kept only two clean sheets in their last 17 games at the European Championships (against Romania in 2008 and Ukraine in 2012).
- Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud – who scored 24 club goals last season – has eight goals in his last six starts for France.
Player to Watch Out For
Payet was the reason France managed to come-away with three points in Paris and the West Ham man could once again prove to be among the key personnel for Les Bleus tomorrow.
France 2-0 Albania
The nervy opening game victory over Romania could prove to be a blessing in disguise for Didier Deschamps’ side who were seemingly resting on the laurels of a talented squad and home comforts to ease them through to European glory. Having already lost to Albania last year, the French will be a lot more cautious this time around. With the pedigree of players in their squad will be expected to put away an Albanian side lacking experience in major competitions.
Blast from the past