Spain cautious ahead of France WC qualifier clash
While both teams head into the clash at Madrid’s Vicente Calderon stadium unbeaten form their opening two matches, Spain are European and World Cup champions and have won 27 straight qualifiers since 2007.
Les Bleus, on the other hand, are rebuilding under new manager Didier Deschamps and these days only hit the headlines for their disgraceful antics on and off the pitch.
However, with Georgia, Finland and Belarus making up the rest of Group I, it’s hard to see anyone else challenging the big two for top spot.
And it’s for that reason that Del Bosque is demanding nothing but perfection from his star-studded line-up.
“We want to take a step closer to qualification. It seems that one of the two countries will qualify in top spot and so it becomes a knock-out cup tie,” the mustachioed manager said.
“When we finish [tonight’s] match there will still be a lot to play for, but it seems these two matches against the French are vital.”
La Roja have won their last three meetings against the French, with the most recent match being a 2-0 victory in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012.
The two countries had mixed fortunes on Friday with Spain claiming a 4-0 qualifying win in Belarus while France slipped to a shock 1-0 friendly loss at home to Japan.
It remains to be seen whether Del Bosque (right) opts to retain a winning line-up, with Andres Iniesta, Fernando Torres and David Villa among those who started on the bench on Friday, but he may be forced to make at least one change due to injury.
Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos is in doubt with a leg injury and with first-choice duo Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique already sidelined, Spain are looking rather thin at the back.
However, Del Bosque insists he won’t risk Ramos if he’s not 100 per cent, saying: “If he can’t play we won’t force the issue, we won’t take any risks.”
With the likes of Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery, France have the attacking weapons to exploit any defensive frailties.
But despite the injury toll, Deschamps is under no illusions of just how difficult it will be to topple to the all-conquering Spaniards.
“When we met in the European Championship, Spain deserved their victory. Five months later, I don’t know if we’ve improved enough to be able to beat them, but we will try,” he said.