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Real Madrid CF defender Raphaël Varane knows he cannot call in any favours as his France team take on Spain in the biggest of Tuesday's FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Didier Deschamps' side are two points clear of the world and European champions at the top of Group I, but Varane – like Paul Pogba, handed his first cap in Friday's 3-1 win against Georgia – knows that Spain's 1-1 draw with Finland on the same night should not be taken as a sign that their neighbours are losing their edge.
"I don't think Spain are a team in decline," said the 19-year-old, who is making great strides alongside Sergio Ramos in the Madrid defence. "I think this team is still very eager and motivated. I know some of the players and they are still hungry. They are not ready to surrender games."
Deschamps too is not reading too much into Spain's recent lapse, their second successive 1-1 draw in Group I following a tie with France in Madrid back in October. "We know them, and they know what they are capable of," he said. "When they have the ball, they attack well. They know how to do it. Then they are less powerful when they have to defend."
Speculation has been rife as to how Deschamps will confront Vicente del Bosque's side this time out. With Jordi Alba injured, there has been a suggestion that Les Bleus may employ a 4-3-3, with in-form Mathieu Valbuena just behind Olivier Giroud and Madrid striker Karim Benzema in attack. To add further intrigue to the tie, Paris Saint-Germain FC take on FC Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final openers next week, though PSG midfielder Blaise Matuidi maintained that club concerns would be on the back burner.
"The match against Spain is very important for the national team," said the 25-year-old. "We will have time to think about the Barcelona game later. We are playing for our country so we want to give the maximum to get a result. Of course, we know that we will be up against a number of Barcelona players, but we cannot be distracted by that. This is all about Spain."
While the hosts are focused, the visitors are relaxed, according to Del Bosque. "I don't think we are feeling any type of anxiety after Friday's result against Finland," La Roja's coach said. "Against France we are expecting a much more open game. France have very gifted players. They are physical but have quality, speed and vision. We have a team with quality and experience. We hope we can win but it will be very hard. We are confident in our chances of doing so, however."
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