France are looking to prep up for their upcoming UEFA Nations League matches as they lock horns with Ukraine in an international friendly on Wednesday.

Following a month of exciting action in club football and an equally dramatic transfer window, the focus will now shift to international football, with France hosting Ukraine at Saint-Denis, in an international friendly on Wednesday.

The reigning world champions are due to play two UEFA Nations League matches against Portugal and Croatia during this international break, so it certainly doesn’t bode well for Les Blues, whose players are already coming on the back of a hectic footballing schedule of the 2020/21 campaign.

At the same time, however, it will provide France manager Didier Deschamps with an opportunity to shuffle his squad and give opportunities to some of his lesser-known stars before they lock horns with Portugal on Sunday.

Ukraine, on the other hand, are facing a similar footballing schedule as they are due to face teams like Germany and Spain during this international break.

It was, in fact, Spain who ended their run of 12 unbeaten matches last month, inflicting a dreadful 4-0 defeat in Madrid. The loss means Ukraine are now running the risk of being overtaken by Germany in the next match while France are hoping to use this game as a confident boost booster before they go head to head against Portugal.

And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two sides ahead of this international friendly in Saint-Denis on Wednesday.

Tactics & Team News

France

The French supporters will be excited about Houssem Aouar heading into this fixture after the Lyon midfielder was called up by Didier Deschamps earlier this month. He is tipped to make his debut for Les Blues in midfield, alongside N’Golo Kante and Corentin Tolisso, who has been in good form for Bayern Munich in recent weeks.

A straightforward group to look forward to. (Photo courtesy - Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

A straightforward match to look forward to. (Photo courtesy – Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

There could another new face in Mike Maignan, set to make his debut for his country. He could get the nod ahead of Hugo Lloris in goal, covered by the back-four of Benjamin Pavard, Presnel Kimpembe, Clement Lenglet and Lucas Digne. Dayot Upamecano and Lucas Hernandez are also options for Deschamps.

A majority of these players have featured on the weekend for their respective clubs, including Digne, Upamecano and Pavard so it will be interesting to see how Deschamps manages to rotate his squad during the game and keep them fresh ahead of two vital clashes against Portugal and Croatia.

Moving forward, Antoine Greizmann hasn’t been in great form for Barcelona and will be exhausted following a strenuous 1-1 draw with Sevilla. He is unlikely to start, thus paving the way for Olivier Giroud to lead the French attack.

We could expect starts for Anthony Martial and Kylian Mbappe in the wide slots, with Wissam Ben-Yedder and Kingsley Coman providing Deschamps with additional options from the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Maignan; Pavard, Kimpembe, Lenglet, Digne; Kante, Aouar, Tolisso; Mbappe, Giroud, Martial

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Ukraine

Andriy Shevchenko has done an excellent job after taking charge of Ukraine in 2016. And much like his counterpart Deschamps, the footballing legend is expected to provide opportunities to some of the team’s unknown stars ahead of the fixture against Germany later this week.

However, Ukraine has been dealt with a massive blow this week as six players had to be pulled out of the squad after testing positive for Covid-19. The list includes goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov and midfielder Taras Stepanenko and Mykola Matvienko.

Fortunately, Shevchenko does have enough players to see this game out with Real Madrid’s Andriy Lunin set to slot in between the sticks. There could be starts for Oleksandr Karavayev, Yevgen Cheberko and Igor Plastun in defence.

However, the focus will be on star player Andriy Yarmolenko, who is looking to make an impression after being overlooked by David Moyes at West Ham this season. He will be the focal point of the Ukraine attack this week, especially Matvienko missing from the side. Roman Yaremchunk could also play a key role in leading the Ukrainian frontline.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Lunin; Karavaev, Plastun, Cheberko, Mykhaylichenko; Sydorchuk, Kharatin, Shaparenko; Yarmolenko, Yaremchuk, Tshyankov

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Key Stats

  • France are unbeaten in nine consecutive games and conceded more than a goal only in the most recent clash.
  • Ukraine have lost only two of their last 23 matches in all competitions, with their defeat to Spain ending a 12 game unbeaten streak.
  • None of Ukraine’s last seven encounters was won by the visiting nations.
  • The most recent meeting between the teams of France and Ukraine dates back to 2013. Then the nations faced each other twice in the space of four days in a two-legged play-off to determine who’ll be going to the World Cup 2014.
  • Three of the last five matches produced over 2,5 goals, while two witnessed goals at both ends.

Player to Watch

Houssem Aouar

Aouar is a wanted man. (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/Getty Images)

Aouar is ready to don the French colours. (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/Getty Images)

Houssem Aouar is, without a doubt, the most interesting player for France heading into this game. The Frenchman has had a rapid rise to prominence over the past couple of years, emerging as one of Ligue 1’s finest central midfielders.

Aouar was also the centre of attention in the transfer market, with the Olympique Lyon star being linked with a move to Arsenal, although he did end up staying put at his current club. He will look to get over it and focus on his football, with Wednesday’s game against Ukraine offering him an excellent opportunity to showcase his qualities at the highest level of football.

The Ukrainians, meanwhile, must find a way to prevent Aouar from influencing the game if they are to have any chance of stopping France from dominating this fixture.

Prediction

France 2-0 Ukraine

France have been quite efficient under the leadership of Deschamps and that momentum is unlikely to change this week, despite the prospect of several personnel changes in the starting lineup. We are expecting a comfortable 2-0 victory for the home side here.

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