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France were outplayed by Spain from wire to wire at Euro 2012. Between Spain's injuries and France's new manager, Tuesday night's match shouldn't be a repeat.
Didier Deschamps is the perfect example of a quality manager who is more suited to international management than club management. He led Monaco to their first ever UEFA Champions League final, led Juventus out of Serie B and managed Marseille to four trophies and the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals. He left the first two jobs due to clashes with the higher ups at the club, and he left Marseille after a combination of poor transfer policy and man management led the club to a 10th place finish last season.
While Deschamps has struggled to handle player personnel decisions and dealings with management at the club level, there's no doubt that he's a brilliant tactician. When transfers, club presidents and day-to-day management of individuals are taken out of the equation, Deschamps can do what he does best without distractions, and that's picking and setting up a team correctly based on the situation they're in.
On Tuesday, Deschamps and his new-look France squad face the toughest match of their qualifying cycle, a road clash against Spain. It's the biggest match anywhere in the world on Tuesday because of the magnitude of the names 'France' and 'Spain', but almost no one expects the match to be a great contest. At home, Spain should win comfortably.
That's not to say that Les Bleus don't have a chance to pull off an impressive and surprising draw. France aren't lacking for quality, depth, bench options of all kinds or a tactically astute manager. Deschamps has masterminded good results against superior teams in multiple competitions throughout his career, and might have a joker in the deck that he's been waiting to bring out for this match.
And even if he doesn't, what Spain thinks they're going to see is going to be tough to deal with. Laurent Blanc's France were no match for Spain at Euro 2012, but they also didn't get steamrolled. It took two Xabi Alonso goals -- scored on a header and a penalty -- to down France. The opening goal came on a great run from deep that Florent Malouda failed to track, and that's unlikely to be a repeat problem on Tuesday, both because Malouda won't start in the center of midfield and because Deschamps' sides generally track runners out of the midfield.
Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol are both out for Spain, while Sergio Ramos did not train on Sunday and may not be at his best if he starts against France. A central defense pairing of Sergio Busquets and Raul Albiol doesn't exactly inspire confidence, especially against France's athletic strikers. Spain were also far from their best in their first qualifying match against Georgia, and needed an 86th minute goal to avoid a shock draw. Spain are almost certainly still the best team in the world, but the gap between them and the pack is not quite what it was a couple of months ago.
Meanwhile, Deschamps is certainly more astute of a tactician than his predecessor, and his midfield is generally based around intelligent and athletic players. France is much more equipped to deal with Spain than they were at the Euros, and should not end up out of the match after just 19 minutes like they were in Donetsk.
Spain are still deserved favorites on Tuesday, but between their injuries and the changes in the France camp, they are no longer invincible.