After learning of France's surprise 1-0 friendly defeat at home to Japan at the weekend, Spain defender Raúl Albiol said he expected Les Bleus to be back to their "absolute best" for Tuesday's FIFA World Cup qualifying encounter at the Estadio Vicente Calderón.
While France coach Didier Deschamps suffered his first loss at the helm of the 1998 world champions, Spain added a second successive away victory in qualifying Group I. La Roja scored four unanswered goals past Belarus courtesy of Jordi Alba's 12th-minute opener and a Pedro Rodríguez hat-trick. With both teams now level on six points in the section, Albiol expects France to arrive in Madrid full of belief.
"I don't think our opponents will be coming here with their spirits damaged at all," said the Real Madrid CF centre-back. "[Against Japan] they had the match against us in mind. We are all too aware that we will have to prepare exceptionally well as we will be facing the absolute best version of France."
France have tasted defeat in each of their last three outings against Spain, most recently in the quarter-finals of UEFA EURO 2012. "Against Belarus, Spain displayed the incredible quality they possess," said Deschamps. "But I believe we can bring something back from Madrid. It is clear that Spain are the best team in the world but we shouldn't go there thinking a win is impossible."
Spain have never lost in nine previous internationals played at the home of Club Atlético de Madrid. The match marks a return to his former club for Chelsea FC striker Fernando Torres, but Albiol is not distracted from the job at hand. "Taking maximum points from this game would signify a big step towards qualifying for the World Cup," he said.
"Playing at home in front of our own fans is an important factor. We know France have changed quite a few players with their new coach – they are more physical now – but what hasn't changed is our style."