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Sunday, 20 January, 2019

France's superior squad strength sets them apart from England

Hosts have plenty in reserve for friendly clash

Players such as Kylian Mbappe give France great depth to their squad
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International friendly
ITV, 8pm Tuesday

England's victorious Under-20 World Cup squad gave the nation a footballing boost on Sunday but France can show just how far the seniors are from claiming the main prize when the Three Lions head to the Stade de France.

Neither side will be at full strength for an end-of-season friendly that is possibly a pain to those who would rather be on the beach but if this turns into a battle of squad players there should be only one winner with Didier Deschamps the envy of most coaches.

Despite his impressive options, Deschamps has not found the right balance and the bizarre loyalty towards Moussa Sissoko baffles most pundits given the talent elsewhere in his squad.

Hugo Lloris's mistake led to a 2-1 defeat in Sweden on Friday to further suggest France are a work in progress in terms of winning the 2018 World Cup, although the European Championship runners-up remain a much better tournament bet than England.

Rotation is often seen as a way of weakening a starting 11 and it would be for England but not so Les Bleus, who may actually benefit from the absence of Deschamps' favourites such as Sissoko, Blaise Matuidi and Dimitri Payet.

The likes of N'Golo Kante, Thomas Lemar, Ousmane Dembele and Kylian Mbappe are waiting in the wings, which should be a frightening prospect when comparing them to England's reserves.

Raheem Sterling and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made telling impacts from the bench in Saturday's 2-2 draw away to Scotland and John Stones is another quality operator who could come into Gareth Southgate's plans after the lucky escape at Hampden Park.

However, of the others, Kieran Tripper, Phil Jones and Jesse Lingard are not guaranteed starters with their clubs, while Ben Gibson and Jermain Defoe were relegated from the Premier League.

Aaron Cresswell, England's second-string left-back, plays for West Ham and France's equivalent, Lucas Digne, represents Barcelona. That's the kind of difference between the squads.

Southgate has had a fairly easy ride from the national media since replacing Sam Allardyce, but on closer inspection it has not been a particularly good start to life in the hotseat.

Wins by 2-0 margins at home to Lithuania and Malta were below handicap expectations, while they needed Harry Kane to save them late on in Glasgow and a magnificent performance from keeper Joe Hart - something we don't see often these days - to hold on for a stalemate in Slovenia.

The 2-2 friendly home draw with Spain was a step in the right direction but that was followed by a 1-0 loss away to Germany when the hosts were more concerned with giving goalscorer Lukas Podolski a retirement party to remember.

England competed well in Dortmund that night and are generally more focused than most other teams in international friendlies but that may not be the case at the end of a long domestic campaign.

1pt 19-20 Betway, Paddy Power

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Team news 
Reports have suggested Didier Deschamps will rotate his side. They have no fresh injury concerns.

All of England's players have taken part in training. Tom Heaton will start in goal and be replaced by Jack Butland at half-time.

Key stat
France have won 11 of their last 14 friendly fixtures.

Southgate has had an easy ride from the media since replacing Sam Allardyce, but on closer inspection it has not been a particularly good start
E.W. Terms
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