France will continue their European Championship 2020 qualifying campaign as they host Albania on Saturday.
France will look to move one step closer to securing qualification to the Euro 2020 main stage when they lock horns against Albania at the Stade de France on Saturday. The World champions have enjoyed a decent qualifying campaign, winning three of their four matches so far, averaging three goals per game.
They are, however, closely followed by Turkey and Iceland, both of who are also on nine points but have inferior goal difference. France’s most recent win came against Andorra – a 4-0 triumph that really bumped up their goal difference, though a 2-0 defeat against Turkey, the game before, did very little to help the cause.
Either way, this will be a must-win game for Les Bleus as they look to remain ahead of Turkey and Iceland in the group table. But, these three aren’t the only ones still in the race for qualification as Albania, too, have hope.
Indeed, France’s weekend opponents currently have six points on the board, meaning a win in this game could draw them level with the World champions and maybe even Turkey and Iceland as well. They are coming on the back of a 2-0 win against Moldova in their last game and will be keen to cause an upset on Saturday.
And here, at the Hard Tackle, we take a look at both the sides ahead of this crucial Euro 2020 qualifying campaign fixture this weekend.
Tactics & Team News
Didier Deschamps will be missing out on the services of Paul Pogba and Aymeric Laporte due to injury. Kylian Mbappe, meanwhile, is also out, which could spell trouble for the French side that are without the services of a recognised right-winger.
Thomas Lemar might be forced to cover the said role, with Kingsley Coman operating on the opposite flank. As for Antoine Griezmann, he will be deployed as a secondary striker or a number ten, just behind the main number nine in Olivier Giroud. The Chelsea star is likely to get the nod ahead of Wissam Ben Yedder.
In midfield, Pogba is missing out due to injury while N’Golo Kante and Tanguy Ndombele haven’t been called up, meaning Moussa Sissoko could get a surprise start. His energy and work ethic could be key against an Albanian side, who are expected to play aggressive football. Blaise Matuidi will partner Sissoko in the double-pivot.
In defence, Laporte’s lack of absence means Samuel Umtiti is likely to start at centre-back, ahead of Bayern Munich star Lucas Hernandez. The Barcelona star will join the ever-present figure of Raphael Varane at the heart of France’s four-man backline.
Benjamin Pavard could retain his role at right-back, having performed well in Bayern Munich’s recent win against Mainz. And while Hernandez may not start as a centre-back, he will be deployed at left-back, with Hugo Lloris starting in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Pavard, Umtiti, Varane, Hernandez; Sissoko, Matuidi; Lemar, Griezmann, Coman; Giroud.
It’s probably needless to say that Albania’s coach Edoardo Reja will employ a deep defensive block consisting of five defenders, with the wing-backs playing a pendulating role on the flanks. The three-man central defensive pairing will likely remain unchanged, with Mergim Mavraj, Ardian Ismajli and Frederic Veseli starting.
Elseid Hysaj is also a guaranteed starter at right wing-back, with Ermir Lenjani occupying the opposite flank. It will be interesting to see how Hysaj copes with the dynamic presence of Coman on the right flank.
Given Albania’s ultra-defensive approach against France, coach Reja is expected to opt for experienced heads in midfield. That means the likes of Amir Abrashi, Taulant Xhaka and Ledian Memushaj are favourites to start. Abrashi’s robust style of play, in particular, could be key in dealing with the threat of Griezmann and co this weekend.
NK Lokomotiva forward Myrto Uzuni could retain his place in attack. But, same can’t be said for Armando Sadiku, who is likely to be replaced by Bekim Balaj. Etrit Berisha, meanwhile, is the undisputed number one choice in between the sticks for Albania.
Probable Lineup (5-3-2): Berisha; Hysaj, Veseli, Ismajli, Mavraj, Lenjani; Abrashi, Xhaka, Memushaj; Uzuni, Balaj.
- France have won 9 of their last 13 matches (European Championship Qualification).
- France have scored 3+ goals in 3 of their last four matches (European Championship Qualification).
- France’s Antoine Griezmann has scored five goals in his last eight matches (all competitions).
- Albania have lost 5 of their last seven matches against France (all competitions).
- Albania have lost 4 of their last six away matches (all competitions).
Player to Watch
Sissoko is slowly becoming a part of the French national team set-up, largely thanks to his incredible resurgence during the second half of last campaign at Tottenham Hotspur. The ex-Newcastle United star is currently one of the most important midfielders for Spurs right now, even more than Eric Dier.
Nonetheless, Sissoko will have an excellent opportunity to impress Deschamps this weekend, especially with the likes of Pogba, Kante and Ndombele out. Besides, his style of play is ideally suited against Albania’s ruthless and robust approach, meaning he is actually coming into this game as one of France’s most important players.
As iterated earlier, Sissoko could partner Matuidi in the double-pivot. And the performance of these two individuals could go a long way in shaping France’s fate in this game.
France 2-1 Albania
This could turn out to be a nail-biting encounter as hosts France are missing a host of their star players including Mbappe. Albania, on the other hand, have nothing to lose and will be full of confidence, having secured a win against Moldova in the last game. However, we expect a narrow 2-1 win for Les Bleus due to their superior quality in terms of individuals.