5 Players to Watch in France's International Friendly with Portugal

Jonathan Johnson@@Jon_LeGossipFeatured ColumnistOctober 9, 2014

5 Players to Watch in France's International Friendly with Portugal

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    France welcome Portugal to the Stade de France on Saturday for the latest in a string of friendly matches against the teams from 2016 UEFA European Championship qualifying Group I.

    The game comes three days before Fernando Santos' men's crucial qualifying clash with Denmark, while Didier Deschamps men are up against Armenia in Yerevan next.

    The French tactician did not take the opportunity to experiment heavily with his squad, instead opting to stick largely to the group he took to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil this summer, as reported by Ligue1.com.

    He did make one or two alterations, however, and in-form Olympique de Marseille pair Andre-Pierre Gignac and Dimitri Payet are among those included after superb starts to the campaign.

    A handful of absences were forced upon Deschamps, with important players like Arsenal pair Mathieu Debuchy and Olivier Giroud, as well as Liverpool’s Mamadou Sakho, missing through injury.

    There are also question marks over the inclusion of a number of players whose current form has arguably not been good enough to warrant a place in the squad. Chelsea’s Loic Remy and Newcastle United’s Remy Cabella are just two of them.

    The friendly encounter with Portugal is shaping up to be an exciting one, and here are five French players to keep an eye on during the game.

5. Yohan Cabaye

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    Darko Vojinovic/Associated Press

    According to an interview with L’Equipe on Wednesday (h/t Goal.com’s Harry West), French international midfielder Yohan Cabaye is dissatisfied with his bit-part role with Paris Saint-Germain at present.

    In the interview, he hinted that he would start to consider his future in the French capital if his position in Didier Deschamps’ plans became compromised,.

    It appears that moment is rapidly approaching. It is true that Cabaye has not enjoyed too many first-team opportunities at PSG this season, but in the French champions’ defence, the 28-year-old midfielder has been poor when given the chance to impress.

4. Morgan Schneiderlin

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    Darko Vojinovic/Associated Press

    One of the players currently snapping at Yohan Cabaye’s heels is Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin, who has enjoyed an excellent start to the English Premier League season under Ronald Koeman.

    The 24-year-old midfielder has been an integral part of the team that sits third in the table and is playing some of the best football of his career so far.

    After featuring in both of France’s previous friendly clashes last month—against Spain and Serbia—Schneiderlin will be ken to keep his progress going. Considering Cabaye’s current struggles with PSG, the young Frenchman might get handed the chance to further stake his claims for a starting role come Euro 2016 against Portugal.

3. Mathieu Valbuena

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    Recently returned from injury, the Portugal match will be one of the first opportunities for Didier Deschamps to see what effect playing in Russia with Dynamo Moscow is having on star man Mathieu Valbuena. In terms of form, it has not had a major impact so far, as the talented 30-year-old has two goals and five assists to his name after just six Russian Premier League appearances.

    Although perhaps not yet back to full fitness after his recent injury lay-off, Deschamps will want to be able to call on the services of his diminutive playmaker for both the Portugal and Armenia clashes.

    The 45-year-old will likely be especially keen that Valbuena features heavily at the Stade de France on Saturday, with Portugal one of Les Bleus’ most challenging Group I opponents.

2. Dimitri Payet

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    Sergei Grits/Associated Press

    High-flying Marseille’s Dimitri Payet is another player to watch during this Portugal clash. Reborn under Marcelo Bielsa at the Stade Velodrome this season, the 27-year-old has earned a recall to the squad having been absent since the 4-2 win over Belarus in Gomel at the end of last year.

    Payet has three goals and eight assists in nine appearances for OM so far this campaign and looks a thoroughly rejuvenated figure after a difficult first season in Provence.

    The Marseille No. 17 will be one of Les Bleus’ main men to watch against Portugal at the Stade de France on Saturday because he has the chance to impress once again after losing some of Didier Deschamps’ trust.

1. Andre-Pierre Gignac

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    Claude Paris/Associated Press

    With nine Ligue 1 goals in as many appearances for Marseille so far this season, Andre-Pierre Gignac is French football’s current form player. With Les Phoceens flying high under Marcelo Bielsa—five points clear of second placed Girondins de Bordeaux and seven ahead of French champions Paris Saint-Germain—it is natural that Didier Deschamps returned to his former club for a number of new faces.

    9 - André-Pierre Gignac has scored as many or more goals than 12 Ligue 1 teams this season. Bomber. pic.twitter.com/AT0djJmqZ8

    — OptaJean (@OptaJean) October 7, 2014

    Gignac has been recalled to Les Bleus’ squad for the first time since September of last year, and the call-up has been earned. In insatiable form right now, the OM No. 9 is one of Euope’s most lethal strikers at this current time.

    With Karim Benzema’s participation in doubt because of a hip problem picked up in training, per AS.com, Gignac will be keen to seize his chance to show Deschamps what he can do.