France vs. Germany: Les Bleus look to continue newfound form

Denis Doyle

Didier Deschamps' France have enjoyed some good results recently and may be looking the real deal ahead of 2014, but will have a difficult test against Germany.

After the national humiliations, soul-searching, revolts, rebellions and pathetic performances, France look like they might just be the real deal once again.

Didier Deschamps' appointment as national team boss appears to have resulted in an upturn of form, gaining a draw in Spain in a qualifier and following it up with an impressive away victory over Italy. Now France will face another difficult test at home in the shape of Germany, with Les Bleus attempting to show they have what it takes to be considered serious contenders for 2014.

Both teams have injury problems, although France's are more minor - Raphael Varane will be unavailable after his outstanding performance in El Clasico, with Newcastle defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa replacing him. In contrast, Germany will be without Bastian Schweinsteiger, Marcel Schmelzer, Mario Gotze, Miroslav Klose and Marco Reus, as well as possibly Ilkay Gundogan and Lars Bender.

Yanga-Mbiwa is 50\50 to start, with France still to decide on their first-choice combination of centre-backs, although with all players fit it will likely be two of Laurent Koscielny, Mamadou Sakho and Raphael Varane. Three of his Magpies teammates are likely to start, however, in Mathieu Debuchy and in-form midfield duo Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko. Cabaye has been excellent since returning from injury for Newcastle, and while Sissoko may only recently have moved to Tyneside, he put in a phenomenal performance to give the Toon a 3-2 victory over Chelsea. If they are to both feature in France's first-choice midfield, having them both play their football at the same club could be a huge boost to Les Bleus.

Surprisingly, then, France's team could be looking more settled than their opponents. Their main two questions concern the makeup of their midfield three and their centre-back partnership, and both should be given a rigorous test against Germany. Blaise Matuidi is likely to be the third member of their midfield, but has plenty of competition in Etienne Capoue and Maxime Gonalons among others. Samir Nasri's continued exclusion suggests that a displacement of any of the Karim Benzema-Franck Ribery-Jeremy Menez front three is unlikely to happen unless in the case of injury, although Olivier Giroud will probably feature at some point.

Germany probably have just as much to wonder about, although they make look at alternative plans for their team given the injury problems in the squad. As well as deciding who will be first and second-choice partner for Mats Hummels in the centre of defence, there are question marks over their midfield. Their double pivot usually comprises Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira, although the former is injured and the latter is in poor form and could certainly be replaced before 2014. Toni Kroos will probably get another opportunity to be tested in the double-pivot - a role he has struggled in previously - but the possibility of Lars Bender being tried out there will give Khedira cause for concern over his selection, as the Leverkusen midfielder could be an ideal partner for Schweinsteiger. Ilkay Gundogan is another potential choice for that position, but unfortunately for Joachim Low, both he and Bender have injury doubts.

Further ahead in Germany's midfield, there is much greater competition - Mesut Ozil, Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Toni Kroos are all obvious competitors for the band of three, although Gotze and Reus are both out. Lukas Podolski may get a chance to impress on the left wing, while Thomas Muller is another player who is likely to come in and perhaps threaten to break into the starting eleven.

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