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Preview: France vs. Albania - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Euro 2020 qualifier between world champions France and Albania, including predictions and team news.

World champions France host Albania at the Stade de France on Saturday knowing that anything other than victory could hand the initiative elsewhere at the top of Group H of Euro 2020 qualifying.

Les Bleus currently lead the way on goal difference but are one of three teams level on nine points after four games of the campaign.

Match preview

France boss Didier Deschamps pictured on March 22, 2019© Reuters

Saturday sees the top three of Group H take on the bottom three, and of those it is France who have the toughest test on paper.

Albania have already won twice in the qualifying campaign and will consider themselves still in the conversation for a second successive appearance at the European Championships, having never qualified for a major tournament before the 2016 edition in France.

Just three points separate the Eagles from leaders France, whereas Iceland host Moldova and second-placed Turkey entertain pointless and goalless group whipping boys Andorra.

There is no doubt that Didier Deschamps's side will be heavy favourites for this contest, though, having won five of their last six matches across all competitions and lost just twice in their last 22 - including that famous run to World Cup glory.

One of those losses came as recently as June - a shock 2-0 defeat in Turkey - but they bounced back from that immediately with a 4-0 thrashing of Andorra.

Les Bleus have now scored exactly four goals in each of their three wins during qualifying so far, and they will be expected to add to that tally with back-to-back home ties against Albania and Andorra.

It is six-and-a-half years since France last lost a qualifying match on home soil, although they will also be wary of Albania's record on the road - June's defeat to Iceland was their first in six European Championship qualifiers - a run which included victory over Portugal and stretched back to their last qualifying game against France in 2011.

The two sides also met at the Euros in 2016, when France won 2-0, although the scoreline does not do justice to an Albania side that matched the hosts until goals in the 90th and 95th minutes.

France form: WWWWLW

Albania form: LWLWLW

Team News

Antoine Griezmann celebrates scoring for France on June 2, 2019© Reuters

France have been hit by a number of high-profile absentees and withdrawals, leaving Deschamps with something of a makeshift squad to choose from.

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba was forced to pull out and be replaced by Matteo Guendouzi, joining fellow midfielders N'Golo Kante and Tanguy Ndombele on the sidelines.

Kylian Mbappe is also absent to leave France with a question to ponder on the right, where uncapped Lille starlet Jonathan Ikone could be handed a debut.

Having waited a bemusing amount of time for his first call-up, Aymeric Laporte was subsequently forced to withdraw after sustaining a serious knee injury, although the replacement of Samuel Umtiti hints at France's strength in depth.

Other players not to be involved include Ferland Mendy, Presnel Kimpembe, Anthony Martial, Ousmane Dembele, Dimitri Payet and Alexandre Lacazette - a list of exclusions any manager in world football would be envious of.

Olivier Giroud looks set to lead the line for what will be his 92nd cap, with Barcelona's Antoine Griezmann behind him.

Albania's star man is wing-back Elseid Hysaj - linked with a big-money move to the Premier League over the summer - and he will earn his 49th cap while captain Mergim Mavraj makes it to 50.

France possible starting lineup:
Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Hernandez; Matuidi, Sissoko; Ikone, Griezmann, Coman; Giroud

Albania possible starting lineup:
Berisha; Veseli, Ismajli, Mavraj; Hysaj, Abrashi, Xhaka, Memushaj, Lenjani; Uzuni, Balaj

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We say: France 3-0 Albania

Albania will not be as easy a touch as Andorra are expected to be next up for France, but Saturday's visitors have also only beaten the two teams below them in the standings so far. Even with their list of absentees, France have a star-studded squad and more than enough quality to pick up all three points.

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Who will win Saturday's Euro 2020 qualifier between France and Albania?

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Paul Pogba pictured during Manchester United's Premier League clash with Chelsea on August 11, 2019
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