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Preview: Spain vs. France - prediction, team news, lineups
10/10/2021 12:00:23

The 2020-21 UEFA Nations League reaches a tantalising conclusion on Sunday night at San Siro, as Spain and France do battle for the continental trophy.

Luis Enrique's side saw off Euro 2020 winners Italy 2-1 to advance to the final, while Les Bleus produced a storming comeback to defeat Belgium 3-2 on Thursday night.

We say: Spain 1-2 France

France - who will have had one day fewer to prepare for this game - simply cannot afford to begin in the same manner as they did against Belgium lest they risk being blown away by Spain, who could be sweating over Torres's fitness right up until the morning of the game.

La Roja ought to take inspiration from their strong recent record against their opponents, but if Mbappe and Benzema can replicate their performances from Thursday evening, free-scoring France will hope to see added quality in the final third of the field propel them to the crown.

Match preview

In what could be perceived as a clear message to Pep Guardiola, Ferran Torres operated at the tip of Spain's attack during their semi-final with Italy and may have proved to the Manchester City coach that spending the big bucks on Harry Kane or Dusan Vlahovic may not be necessary.

Torres struck twice before the half-time whistle blew against the Euro 2020 champions, who were up against it for the second 45 minutes after Leonardo Bonucci was sent for an early bath, and La Roja held on despite Lorenzo Pellegrini's late strike to set up a tense finale.

While the Man City man limping off the field did sour the mood somewhat, Spain are on cloud nine after dumping the continental champions out of the tournament as they seek to follow in the footsteps of Iberian neighbours Portugal, whose 2019 Nations League crown will soon slip out of their grasp.

It is now three wins on the bounce for Spain across all tournaments since their 2-1 World Cup Qualifying defeat to Sweden last month, and while their Nations League group stage was far from perfect, that historic 6-0 thrashing of Germany set them up perfectly for the showpiece events.

Not since Euro 2012 have Spain got their hands on a major international trophy, and if the glory days of Vicente del Bosque's reign are to return, overcoming the reigning world champions in Sunday's final would be a good starting point.

Entering the semi-final having won just one of their last six games in all competitions, France did not possess a form book befitting that of world champions before facing a Belgium side desperate to translate their spot at the top of the rankings into an elusive piece of silverware.

Didier Deschamps's side seemed destined for more continental disappointment as Yannick Carrasco and Romelu Lukaku fired home to put Belgium two goals to the good before the break, but whatever the Bleus manager said at half time worked wonders, as Karim Benzema, Kylian Mbappe and Theo Hernandez turned the tie on its head.

The latter - playing only his second game in blue alongside his brother Lucas Hernandez - rifled home a 90th-minute winner to send the Bleus faithful into delirium, as France seek to right the wrongs of their Euro 2020 disappointment with success in the Nations League.

After sweeping aside Portugal, Croatia and Sweden with relative ease in the group stage, France - who have averaged over two goals a game in the 2020-21 Nations League - travel to San Siro intent on spoiling the Spanish party, but they have not been able to do that consistently over the years.

Indeed, Les Bleus have only beaten Spain once in their last seven attempts across all competitions - a 1-0 friendly win in 2014 courtesy of Loic Remy's strike - and France have been shut out in five of those games, but such statistics pale into insignificance during an international final.

Team News

Spain's semi-final hero Torres lasted just four minutes of the second half against Italy before coming off, but the striker labelled the issue a 'minor annoyance' after the game and should be fine to lead the line here.

Torres's inclusion would be pivotal this weekend with no Alvaro Morata available, and Enrique otherwise has no reason to change a winning formula, meaning another start for 17-year-old Barcelona protege Gavi.

Pablo Sarabia did not enjoy the most fruitful of evenings in the semi-final, but the 29-year-old will hope to hold his place over youngsters Bryan Gil and Yeremi Pino.

Meanwhile, France did not report any fresh injury concerns from the semi-final, and Deschamps ought to stick with his three-man defence in the absence of the COVID-positive N'Golo Kante.

Aurelien Tchouameni caught the eye during his 15-minute cameo in midfield - much more so than Adrien Rabiot did over the course of 75 minutes - and the Monaco starlet could be deemed ready to start in the final.

The Nations League final will mark Antoine Griezmann's 100th cap for the national team - seeing him become just the ninth player to hit that milestone for Les Bleus - while a goal would see him become his country's outright third-highest goalscorer ahead of Michel Platini, with both men sitting on 41 strikes.

Spain possible starting lineup:

Simon; Azpilicueta, Laporte, P. Torres, Alonso; Koke, Busquets, Gavi; Sarabia, Torres, Oyarzabal

France possible starting lineup:

Lloris; Kounde, Varane, L. Hernandez; Pavard, Pogba, Tchouameni, T. Hernandez; Griezmann; Mbappe, Benzema

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