France - Serbia Preview: Les Bleus continue Euro 2012 warm-up against Mihajlovic's men
Laurent Blanc's men hope to put their defensive frailties to bed against the Serbians in Reims, after coming from behind and narrowly edging out Iceland 3-2 on Sunday
By Mohammed Ali
Reveilliere, Koscielny, Rami, Clichy
A. Diarra, M'Vila
Valbuena, Martin, Malouda
Basta, Ivanovic, Subotic, Tosic
Tosic, Djuricic, Kolarov
France will ring the changes again in Thursday's international friendly against Serbia in Reims. A number of the players who didn't feature, or came off the bench in the 3-2 victory over Iceland on Sunday should get their chance to perform, having made the 23-man cut.
Yoann Gourcuff and Montpellier's title-winning captain Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa were the unlucky duo to have been omitted from the preliminary squad as attention now turns to final preparations.
The back four was notoriously suspect against the Nordic nation on Sunday, with Philippe Mexes and Patrice Evra shouldering much of the criticism that allowed Lars Lagerback's side to take a 2-0 lead in Valenciennes. Neither should start, with deputies Laurent Koscielny and Gael Clichy expected to stake their claim.
Want-away midfielder Yann M'Vila was rested, as was goalkeeper Hugo Lloris,and both are set to regain their places. Olivier Giroud starred in his cameo, coming off the bench to assist two goals and could get the nod ahead of Karim Benzema, with Marseille's Mathieu Valbuena and Chelsea's Florent Malouda offering the support from the flanks.
Serbia have been thrown into fresh controversy with the revelation that Fiorentina midfielder Adem Ljajic has been dropped by new coach Sinisa Mihajlovic for failing to sing the national anthem before the 2-0 defeat to world & European champions Spain.
A number of key players have been left out of the White Eagles squad, including Milos Krasic, Zdravko Kuzmanovic, Nenad Milijas, Milan Jovanovic, Miralem Sulejmani and Nikola Zigic. Siena's Zeljko Brkic is in line to gain his sixth cap in goal, ahead of Tavriya Simferopol's Damir Kahriman, who started against Vicente del Bosque's men.
Alongside the likes of Branislav Ivanovic and Neven Subotic, Ligue 1 stars such as Pavle Ninkov and Milan Bisevac could also feature.
|DID YOU KNOW|
France are undefeated in 19 games, and were last beaten by Belarus in September 2010 in their first competitive game under Laurent Blanc.
- Les Bleus came back from 2-0 down to beat Iceland 3-2 in Sunday's friendly, the first time they had conceded two goals since a 2-1 defeat to Norway in August 2010.
- France beat Serbia 2-1 in a World Cup 2010 qualifier, Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka bagging the goals the last time the two nations met on French soil.
Serbia have only won one of their last six international games, going down 2-0 to Spain in St Gallen on Saturday.
- The White Eagles' last game against France saw two red cards, shown to Hugo Lloris and Danko Lazovic.
- Serbia's squad have just 23 international goals between them, six of those from Branislav Ivanovic.
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Top 3 Predictions
France 2-0 Serbia
- 14.57 %
France 2-1 Serbia
- 14.5 %
France 3-1 Serbia
- 12.02 %
|International Friendlies (FR)||31 May 2012||France 2 - Serbia 0|
|World Cup Qualification 2014 (Europe) (WCQE)||9 Sep 2009||Serbia 1 - France 1|
|World Cup Qualification 2014 (Europe) (WCQE)||10 Sep 2008||France 2 - Serbia 1|
|19 Nov 2013||France 3 - Ukraine 0||WCQE|
|15 Nov 2013||Ukraine 2 - France 0||WCQE|
|15 Oct 2013||France 3 - Finland 0||WCQE|
|11 Oct 2013||France 6 - Australia 0||FR|
|10 Sep 2013||Belarus 2 - France 4||WCQE|
|-||Hatem Ben Arfa|
The Arsenal defender made the 23-man cut, and should feature for France after the horror show that Patrice Evra and Philippe Mexes put in against Iceland. Koscielny, who only has one cap under his belt for les Bleus, has enjoyed a good season in North London, and with Mexes leaving Blanc unsure of his credentials at Euro 2012, Koscielny could ensure 'Le Professor' has food for thought ahead of the opening game against England, should the 26 year old enjoy a good game.
The Champions League winner imposes himself as one of the most important players in Serbia, with 50 caps, and should be the main man to watch in Reims on Thursday. Ivanovic has displayed his abilities in Chelsea's never-say-die run to the Champions League title, and is a man for the big games. Though just a friendly, a win for the visitors will open up new momentum ahead of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
After being tipped to overwhelm Iceland, France only managed to achieve the result courtesy of two late goals. Serbia provide a much sterner opposition for les Bleus who are far from the finished article. Yet, their extraordinary 19 game run could yet be extended in Reims with a narrow victory over Serbia.
Times In GMT
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed