France coach Didier Deschamps must decide whether to gamble on picking players for the World Cup qualifier with Georgia who are at risk of being suspended for the critical game against Spain four days later.
Midfielders Yohan Cabaye, Maxime Gonalons and Blaise Matuidi and centerback Laurent Koscielny will be suspended if they are booked against Georgia on Friday, leaving Deschamps with a difficult decision to make over whether or not he should leave out first-choice players.
“Yes, that is a possibility, but that doesn’t mean I will do it. The risk of suspension is an extra danger,” Deschamps said on Monday, adding that he is wary of pushing tired players too far against a Georgia team which he expects to sit back and defend deep in numbers.
“We could find ourselves in that situation,” he said. “I’m expecting to face a Georgia team which will come to Stade de France to defend well.”
Deschamps also has injury concerns, with Cabaye and winger Jeremy Menez nursing groin strains and star winger Franck Ribery recovering from an ankle ligament injury, and he may be better served resting some of them.
“Freshness is important when you are playing two teams with completely different profiles,” Deschamps said. “I have to take into consideration that I have four players who could be suspended [for the Spain match] and three of them in midfield.”
France are level with Spain at the top of Group I with seven points after having drawn 1-1 away to the Spanish in October.
Koscielny, meanwhile, is confident he can cope with playing under the threat of a yellow card.
“When I play I think first and foremost about the match. If I play then I will give everything without putting myself under pressure over the yellow card,” the Arsenal defender said. “The most important thing is the Georgia match, even though I know everyone’s focusing on Spain. We have to win against Georgia, then after that we will have a lot of time to think about Spain afterward. Spain had a lot of trouble winning over there and we are expecting a tough game.”
Resting Koscielny against a Georgia team not renowned for its attacking flair, however, could be an ideal opportunity to give 19-year-old centerback Raphael Varane his first cap.
“There is always a risk when a player starts. There are examples of that, but Varane will start at one stage or another. There is no such thing as zero risk in soccer,” Deschamps said. “I have no doubt about his ability, but this is a different context. Is he capable of dealing with that? Yes.”
Paul Pogba has proved a goal threat from distance by scoring five times from Juventus’ midfield this season. He said he is ready to seize his opportunity if it arises.
“I enjoy my football and I am happy to be at Juventus. The players believe in me, so does the coach. So I have no pressure,” Pogba said. “If I am here now it means that [Deschamps] has faith in me. If he has selected me it means he thinks I am ready. I am ready to play and to show my ability.”
Deschamps is bracing himself for a scrappy contest against Georgia, who held out until late on before losing 1-0 at home to Spain.
“We’ve watched quite a few videos of their last games,” he said. “They defended very well at home to Spain, with a lot of aggression.”