Second-placed Austria faces off against a France side yet to register a win in the Nations League A Group 1.
Austria have had a mixed start to life under new manager Ralf Rangnick, who took up the post permanently and subsequently left the Manchester United consultancy role. The tactician had a blistering first game, beating the Croatians 3-0, but suffered a reality check with the loss to leaders Denmark.
They head into the final Nations League encounter for this round of fixtures on Friday, knowing a win or a draw would keep them relevant in the table. Under Rangnick, the Austrians have played a different, attacking brand of football, which saw them register 17 shots against Denmark, although only one was towards the goal.
Austria have shown good form while playing at home, where they have netted 11 times in their last four games. However, they have a problem keeping a clean sheet after conceding in their last six games on home soil. However, for their promotion from Group B this time, Austria have shown they are worthy of the spot, although the France game will be a true test of character.
It has been nearly 13 years since France last played against Austria in an international game. Their previous encounter came during a World Cup qualifier in October 2009, where Les Bleus won in Paris.
Despite their star-studded squad, France faces a battle for relevance in this group, having failed to register a win in their two games. Having succumbed to a morale-sapping defeat at home against leaders Denmark, they could only draw against Croatia.
Didier Deschamps had shuffled his pack heavily for the last two games, which has not helped their cause. However, the French will take their 15-game unbeaten streak away from home under consideration and as a source of confidence to get a positive result and stay relevant in this Nations League Group.
Team News & Tactics
Rangnick could revert to a back three to contain the potent attackers France have in their team. There are still doubts over Philipp Lienhart, who has missed the last two games with an illness, and his participation against Les Bleus remains uncertain.
Teamchef-Lob für Seiwald zusätzlicher Ansporn – Wöber will Frankreich mehr als nur ärgern! #GemeinsamÖSTERREICH
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However, Rangnick can fully count on David Alaba, who missed the Croatia clash but played the full 90 minutes against Denmark, thus proving his fitness to the manager.
In the backline, Stefan Posch, Maximilian Wober and Alaba will line up as a back-three, hoping t keep the France attackers quiet. In this setup, Stefan Lainer and Andreas Weimann could operate wing-back roles.
Konrad Laimer, Xaver Schlager and Marcel Sabitzer are the likely choices for central midfield roles. Marco Arnautovic and Sasa Kalajdzic are pencilled in to start in a front two for Austria.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2) – Lindner; Posch, Wober, Alaba; Lainer, Laimer, Schlager, Sabitzer, Weimann; Arnautovic, Kalajdzic
Deschamps may shuffle his pack for the Austria game and probably bring a change in shape. France’s defensive performances have not been upto the mark in the two previous matches, and the manager will look to add more security in the backline. Hugo Lloris will also return to the lineup after missing the Croatia clash.
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William Saliba could be dropped to the bench along with Lucas Digne, with Jules Kounde and Theo Hernandez likely to replace them. Lucas Hernandez could also come into the side and take his position on the left side of the back three, with Presnel Kimpembe taking the central role.
Jonathan Clauss could replace Benjamin Pavard in the wing-back role, while N’Golo Kante likely to come in Matteo Guendouzi’s place. Aurelien Tchouameni will partner with the Chelsea midfielder in the central area.
Antoine Griezmann will play an advanced role behind the strikers, as Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe are set to lead the line for France. However, Deschamps will have plenty of firepower on the bench if needed during the game.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2) – Lloris; Kounde, Kimpembe, L.Hernandez; Clauss, Tchouameni, Kante, T.Hernandez; Griezmann; Mbappe, Benzema
- Austria have scored 11-goals in their last 4-home games.
- Austria have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last-6 home games.
- Austria won against France during Les Blues’ last visit to the country.
- France last met Austria in a World Cup qualifier in October 2009, winning the encounter by a 3-1 scoreline.
- France have drawn once and lost once in their last-8 fixtures against Austria, including friendlies.
Player To Watch
Benzema’s name will be under the spotlight every time he takes the pitch in a star-studded lineup. After a period of being left out in the cold, the striker returned stronger than ever to cement his position.
With France not firing on all cylinders in the attack, there’s a chance for Benzema to make his mark. The team desperately needs his goals to get out of a slump and keep their hopes alive in this Nations League campaign.
Benzema’s link up with Kylian Mbappe, in particular, could be critical in helping France break the shackles of the Austrian defence this week.
Austria 1-2 France
The French may not have won their first two games in this group, but they have the quality to turn the tide. Their below-par performances may have a stroke of bad luck attached to them, but a team of such quality are expected to hit their stride sooner rather than later.
Austria are in a good run of form despite their narrow defeat to Denmark. They are showing attacking fluidity under Rangnick, although they may find it difficult to execute their game plan against a team like France. Nevertheless, Les Bleus are expected to collect a win in Leopoldstadt and keep their hopes alive in the group.