Mathieu Valbuena revealed he was not consulted by Didier Deschamps over the surprise recall of Karim Benzema to the France squad.

Real Madrid striker Benzema is due to stand trial in October regarding an allegation of complicity in the attempted blackmail of former France team-mate Valbuena over a sex tape.

The 33-year-old Benzema strenuously denies putting pressure on Valbuena to pay the alleged blackmailers, who were said to be threatening to release a video featuring the former Marseille and Lyon player.

Since the claims of blackmail emerged in late 2015, Benzema was dropped from the France squad and looked to have no future with Les Bleus, at least until his case was heard in court.

However, a surprise recall came on Tuesday when Benzema was selected for France's Euro 2020 squad, and he looks set for a key role in the team during that tournament.

Valbuena told RMC Sport: "Did the coach call me? No, and I don't expect anything from anyone. When you're at the top, everyone is talking about you; when you disappear a little from the radars, you expect nothing from anyone.

"I make my life, I enjoy myself on the pitch. I expect nothing from Didier or anyone else. If you want to know if he called me, I say no."

Now with Greek club Olympiacos, Valbuena, 36, also last played for France in 2015.

The 52-cap midfielder said he understood why Benzema was being brought back into Deschamps' squad.

"If he can bring more to the France team, so much the better for the Blues," Valbuena said.

"It will play out on the pitch. For me, Didier Deschamps comes out the winner in all cases. If the France team works, we will say that he had to adapt despite a difficult context.

"If France performs less, we will not blame him. That's what he knows how to do well, he knows how to make his squads. In attack, he has no guarantees, he made his choices. I think he will come out a winner either way."

Benzema scored a brace in a friendly against Armenia on his last appearance for France in October 2015.

His form for Real Madrid has often been exceptional in the years since, landing him three Champions Leagues and two LaLiga titles during his absence from the France squad.

Karim Benzema has received a sensational recall to the France squad for Euro 2020, over five years since he last represented his country.

The Real Madrid striker scored twice in a 4-0 win over Armenia in October 2015, taking his tally to 27 international goals. 

Benzema then became embroiled in a blackmail scandal involving Les Bleus team-mate Mathieu Valbuena in the weeks after that game and has been subsequently overlooked by national team boss Didier Deschamps, despite his outstanding form at club level.

However, the 33-year-old - who has scored 29 goals in all competitions for Madrid this season - is undoubtedly the eye-catching name in France's 26-man party for the upcoming tournament, adding further depth up front for the reigning world champions.

"We met, we spoke at length, I then thought very hard and came to make this decision," Deschamps said of the decision to bring Benzema back in from the cold.

"I needed this chat, he needed this chat. I don't want to make this a specific case. As national team boss, I have always look beyond my personal case. My responsibility is important, but it is bigger than me."

There is also a place for Borussia Monchengladbach forward Marcus Thuram, as well as Sevilla defender Jules Kounde.

Anthony Martial, however, misses out due to fitness concerns. The forward suffered a knee injury while playing for France in March, though could make a return to action for Manchester United before the end of the season.

"Anthony Martial would have been here but he is not available. His condition does not allow it," Deschamps revealed during a press conference.

Teenage midfielder Eduardo Camavinga - heavily linked with Madrid - is another notable absentee, along with Rennes team-mate Steven Nzonzi. There is also no place for Madrid left-back Ferland Mendy.

France will play friendly fixtures against Wales and Bulgaria ahead of the delayed European Championship, which was pushed back a year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Deschamps' side start their Group F campaign against Germany on June 15, followed four days later by a clash with Hungary. They complete their round-robin campaign on June 23 by taking on Portugal, the nation who defeated them in the Euro 2016 final in Paris.


France squad: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Mike Maignan (Lille); Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), Leo Dubois (Lyon), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid), Kurt Zouma (Chelsea), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Clement Lenglet (Barcelona), Jules Kounde (Sevilla), Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Lucas Digne (Everton); N'Golo Kante (Chelsea), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich), Moussa Sissoko (Tottenham), Thomas Lemar (Atletico Madrid); Marcus Thuram (Borussia Monchengladbach), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona).
 

Karim Benzema has added the France national team's handle to his Twitter bio amid mounting speculation his international exile is about to end.

France boss Didier Deschamps is expected to include the Real Madrid striker when he names his Euro 2020 squad on Tuesday.

It will be the first time since October 2015, when he scored a brace in a friendly against Armenia, that Benzema has featured for Les Bleus.

His new Twitter bio simply reads: "Football player - @equipedefrance @realmadrid"

In the weeks following the Armenia match, Benzema became embroiled in blackmail scandal involving international team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.

Benzema will stand trial on the charge of complicity in attempted blackmail in October and denies any wrongdoing.

Even though his form for Real Madrid has often been exceptional, landing him three Champions Leagues and two LaLiga titles in the interim period, the apparent reconciliation with Deschamps still comes as a huge surprise.

At the height of publicity surrounding the alleged sex tape extortion attempt on Valbuena, when France's then Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Benzema had "no place" in the national team, the forward hit out at Deschamps and claimed he had "bowed to the pressure of a racist part of France".

 

Dream team? Benzema set to join Mbappe and Griezmann in formidable frontline

Deschamps said he would "never forget" those words, but now the world champions look set to line up with a fearsome forward line combining Benzema, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe.

In the time since Benzema's 81st cap – he has 27 goals at international level – all three have established themselves among the leading attacking talents in Europe.

Benzema has 138 goals in 269 Real Madrid outings, placing him 13th among players from across Europe's top five leagues in all competitions. Over the same period, Griezmann has 137 (293 matches) and Mbappe 157 (229 matches) – hauls split across respective stints with Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, and Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain.

Mbappe (€180million) and Griezmann (€120m) are the second and fifth most expensive players of all time, with compatriots Paul Pogba and Ousmane Dembele also moving in €100m deals since Benzema last played internationally – further underlining the enviable level of talent Deschamps has at his disposal.

Benzema is often noted for his selflessness and ability to combine well with team-mates. Since October 8, 2015, he has 54 assists from 375 chances created at Madrid. Mbappe has 68 assists – placing him fourth among players to have scored 100 or more goals in this time, behind Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez – from 326 chances created, while Griezmann has laid on 397 opportunities for 55 assists.

This is firepower Deschamps will be glad to call upon in a tough Euro 2020 group alongside Germany, Hungary and Portugal – the reigning champions and their conquerors in the 2016 final.

Didier Deschamps insists winning is the only thing that matters in World Cup qualifying after acknowledging France's first-half display in their 1-0 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina was below par.

Les Bleus were well off the pace during the opening 45 minutes in Sarajevo, but the 2018 world champions ultimately sealed all three points thanks to Antoine Griezmann in the 60th minute. 

The Barcelona forward met Adrien Rabiot's left-wing cross with a superb header that brought up his 35th international goal. 

An eighth consecutive away win - the longest winning streak on the road in their history - moved them four points clear of second-placed Ukraine at the summit of Group D. 

While accepting his side's first-half performance was not good enough, Deschamps was largely pleased with how his players battled through a third game in eight days.

"Our first-half display is below what we are capable of doing," he told M6.

"It was better in the second half. It is not easy. All matches are complicated. There are things that I have seen us do that I haven't seen in a while. The main thing is victory. 

"We did more in the second half even if I take the opponent into account as well. I found that the start was quite difficult. I don't want to find excuses for the players. I am very demanding with them, even if the trips and the time differences are difficult. 

"The three matches we will have in September will be against our three direct opponents. Nothing is done but we have put ourselves in the best place with seven points from three games."

Hugo Lloris, whose 123rd appearance moved him level with Thierry Henry as France's second-most capped player, attributed their ability to grind out a result to their robust mentality. 

"It was a bit laborious, especially in the first half," the Tottenham goalkeeper said. 

"We struggled with the use of the ball especially. They put us in danger on the counter-attacks and on the set pieces with the quality of [Miralem] Pjanic. But the state of mind is remarkable. Honestly, we played badly today, but we won with the state of mind. 

"It's something you can build on. This is not the first time, but we must continue to move forward, to improve because there are important deadlines in June and July. After Antoine's goal, we managed the result.

"We could have scored a second goal, but we got the win and we are moving forward."

Kylian Mbappe cannot be satisfied with his performances in France's opening two World Cup 2022 qualifiers, according to head coach Didier Deschamps.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward played 77 minutes of the 1-1 draw with Ukraine and just over half an hour in the 2-0 victory over Kazakhstan without finding the net.

He attempted seven shots across those two Group D fixtures, finding the target from three of them, including a penalty that was saved by Alexandr Mokin at Astana Arena on Sunday.

Mbappe's goalscoring record with Monaco and PSG has not quite been matched at international level, having managed 16 goals in 41 appearances for Les Blues.

But despite acknowledging that there is room for improvement from Mbappe, Deschamps does not believe the 22-year-old is low on confidence.

"He cannot be satisfied with what he has done so far," Deschamps said ahead of Wednesday's trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"He was not very leggy in the first game. He was much better off against Kazakhstan and had chances. Of course he wants to score more goals and create them."

Asked if the penalty miss against Kazakhstan has affected Mbappe, Deschamps said: "No, I don't feel it has. It happens to everyone. 

"I know Kylian well. He can, over a match or a period of time, have a spell of efficiency that is a little less good than usual."

Deschamps is spoiled for choice in terms of options across the field, not least in attack where Ousmane Dembele and Kingsley Coman are battling for a starting spot.

Coman started the disappointing draw with Ukraine but was left out against Kazakhstan in favour of Dembele, who made the most of his chance with the opening goal.

"They are players somewhat in the same profile – yet they are not the same," Deschamps said. "They are both dribblers capable of taking opponents out of the game.

"Ousmane can speed past opponents and go fast without the ball. Kingsley can play both sides, even if he has a preference, just like Ousmane."

One player France will have to make do without against Bosnia-Herzegovina is defensive midfielder N'Golo Kante, who has returned to Chelsea with a hamstring injury.

"We know his importance," Deschamps said of Kante's absence. "When he is available, of course I prefer to have him in the team, and that is the same for his team-mates.

"He is an importance player for us, but he is not available on Wednesday and I have lots of other players." 

Mbappe is another fitness doubt for France after hobbling off against Kazakhstan, but Deschamps is not ruling the Manchester United forward out of the Bosnia match.

"Anthony has a little problem with his knee, but we cannot make a decision on his inclusion today," Deschamps said. 

"He is not at his best and will not participate in the training session tonight, but we will take stock tomorrow."

Didier Deschamps acknowledges a five-hour time difference and a synthetic pitch will make life difficult for France in Kazakhstan, but believes the world champions "have an obligation to get a result".

Sunday's early World Cup qualifier takes Les Bleus to Astana four days on from a disappointing 1-1 home draw against Ukraine.

France can ill afford another slip up but face potentially tricky opponents in Kazakhstan, who have not yet played their first match but enjoyed their most successful European Championship qualifying campaign to date ahead of Euro 2020.

That included a dominant 3-0 home win over Scotland, who ultimately qualified for the finals, in which Kazakhstan had just 41 per cent of the possession but mustered 10 shots - including six on target - and their expected goals total (1.2) was double that of the visitors (0.6).

The jeopardy of Sunday's qualifier goes beyond just the threat of the hosts for France, however, as Deschamps' side also contend with travel, jetlag and an unfamiliar surface.

"With my staff, we know this opponent well," the coach told a news conference. "But the difficulty is the lag, because it can be difficult to find sleep, and a pitch different from those on which players are used to playing.

"It's up to us to make sure we're at our level. A trap? I don't know, but there are additional difficulties, yes."

 

Although Bosnia-Herzegovina and Finland drew, meaning France lost no ground in midweek, a response is required following their frustrating outing in Paris.

Les Bleus had 63 per cent of the possession and 18 shots but only three on target, including Antoine Griezmann's spectacular opener.

Ukraine mustered a meagre three attempts, one of which decisively deflected in off Presnel Kimpembe for an own goal.

"Even with a better result, we would have had the same obligation [in Astana] against an opponent who has nothing to lose," Deschamps said.

"It's up to us to do the job, and more than pressure, we have an obligation to get a result.

"The pressure was greater in the Euro qualifiers, when we went to Andorra just after our defeat in Turkey, with the same specificity of the synthetic pitch.

"On what they have done in recent matches, Kazakhstan are solid and concede few goals. It's never simple anyway."

Meanwhile, captain Hugo Lloris highlighted the potential positives of playing on a synthetic pitch for a France side who trailed only Spain in passes (7,360), successful passes (6,571) and average possession (72 per cent) in Euro 2020 qualifying.

"It promotes the short passing game," he said. "We are going to try to get our bearings as best as we can in the training later [on Saturday].

"And tomorrow [Sunday] we'll try to play and have the maximum of fun.

"We expect a match like against Ukraine, to have the ball in front of a low block. We must put intensity in our passes, in our running.

"The use of the ball will be so important, so to adapt to the synthetic pitch will be very important for tomorrow."

France coach Didier Deschamps lamented his side's lack of energy in the second half of Wednesday's 1-1 draw with Ukraine but says they should have put the game to bed in the first half.

The reigning world champions started their road to Qatar 2022 in unconvincing fashion in Paris, although they seemed on track for three points in the first half.

Antoine Griezmann fired in a 19th-minute opener before multiple chances were spurned including Olivier Giroud's close-range header which sailed over.

Ukraine found a fortunate way back into the match via Presnel Kimpembe's 57th-minute own goal from Serhiy Sydorchuk tame shot.

"We should have secured the win in the first half, we had the opportunities, it was more difficult in the second half," Deschamps told TF1 post-game.

"There was certainly less juice, the goal that we conceded was avoidable, we pushed to the end.

"I had decided to have a team focused on the offensive but this was not the case. It was not necessarily a match where we got the most chances. We needed more precision and movement.

"We are obviously disappointed, the ideal result would have been to win. It proves that Ukraine is a good nation."

Les Bleus captain Hugo Lloris agreed they should have been more than one goal up at the break.

"We missed this second goal. We should have done a lot more to get it; we came back with a lack of intensity," the Tottenham goalkeeper told TF1.

"We were faced with a lower block and we struggled. We had good intentions but, at half-time, we should have been 2-0 and secured the win. It is insufficient for this first match."

France return to action on Sunday away to Kazakhstan before another trip on Wednesday to face Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"We have two other matches which will not be easy," Deschamps said. "We lacked energy in the second half. We can do better."

The understanding between Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud will be key to a successful World Cup qualifying campaign for France, according to boss Didier Deschamps. 

Reigning world champions France start their Group D campaign against Ukraine on Thursday before taking on Kazakhstan and Bosnia-Herzegovina on Sunday and Wednesday respectively. 

Les Bleus are expected to comfortably book their place in Qatar next year and Deschamps expects his forward trio to shine again after their heroics won the 2018 tournament. 

"I'm not going to separate them from the rest of the team, but when you look at the number of goals and assists that the three provide, that's what allowed the France team to be world champions," he told a media conference.

"They know each other; it is automatic. The experience they have is something important. It is up to them to maintain this level of performance."

Mbappe has enjoyed another fine season for Paris Saint-Germain and is Ligue 1's top scorer with 20 goals in 21 starts.

He has also laid on six goals for his team-mates – second behind only Angel Di Maria (eight) for Mauricio Pochettino's side. 

Mbappe largely plays on the left of a front three for his club and Deschamps revealed he has spoken to the 22-year-old to ensure his position for France brings out the best in him.

"Kylian has the ability to play in all offensive positions," Deschamps said. "In his club, he is mainly used in a position on the left, even if he has a lot of freedom. 

"Sometimes he plays in the middle, where he is also efficient. On the right, he plays less. I discuss it with him to make sure he is happy [where he plays]."

Trying to force his way into Deschamps' forward line will be Ousmane Dembele, who has not featured for France since November 2018.

Deschamps handed the Barcelona man his full debut back in September 2016 and, after injuries wiped out the vast majority of the 2019-20 season, he has returned to form this term. 

Captain Hugo Lloris is pleased to see the 23-year-old back on the international scene and is hopeful he is in the right condition to make a positive impact. 

"He has a fairly strong history with the France team as he was part of the World Cup group in Russia," the Tottenham goalkeeper said. 

"He was held back by injuries, but we know all his qualities. We hope that his injuries are behind him and that he can look ahead. 

"He is doing very good things with Barca. We know what he can bring and what he is capable of doing."

Didier Deschamps believes Ousmane Dembele can still become a more consistent contributor after recalling the forward for the start of France's World Cup qualifying campaign. 

Dembele has not played an international game since November 2018, when he came on as a substitute in a 2-0 Nations League defeat to the Netherlands. 

However, his form this season for Barcelona has led to the 23-year-old being included in Les Bleus’ squad for games against Group D rivals Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Bosnia-Herzegovina 

Deschamps handed the player his full debut back in September 2016 and, after injuries wiped out the vast majority of the 2019-20 season, is pleased to see Dembele back performing again. 

Still, the France boss sees further room for improvement, pinpointing the need to have an even greater impact on games.

"He is a player who showed his qualities very early. He is still young," Deschamps told the media on Monday. 

"If we haven't seen him for a while, it's because he's not been spared from injuries. By the time he recovered he was injured again. 

"Now he is able to play again, he is able to make the difference and score goals. He could score more and be more effective. 

"It is not a question of changing him. He has been playing at the highest level for a long time. He is young. It would be good for him, for his club and for us if he could become more efficient.  

"Of course, this is something that needs to be worked on. As you mature, you may make better choices. All forwards have moments when they are less efficient than others."

Dembele has scored nine goals and provided four assists for Barca in all competitions this season, his fourth at Camp Nou.  

His tally of 78 shots is already his highest for a campaign since arriving from Borussia Dortmund, with his conversion rate sitting at 11.54 per cent.   

He barely featured last term but was more clinical in 2018-19, when he had 14 goals and eight assists in 42 appearances. That season, he converted shots at a rate of 20.29 per cent, with 45.45 per cent success from 'big chances', where Opta expects a player to score.  

Dembele has had 15 'big chances' and created a further seven under Ronald Koeman for Barca, who made it five wins on the spin in LaLiga at the weekend with a 6-1 thrashing of Real Sociedad, in which the Frenchman one of the goals.  

"Ousmane has and always had this ability to create chances and make the difference. He is not always decisive in the area. That's where it's most difficult," Deschamps continued.  

"The important thing is his ability to make the difference.  Yes, he can be more consistent from the beginning to the end of the game. 

"I'm not saying he can't progress or improve. I prefer to look at the qualities anyway. They all have little flaws that can be erased with time.   

"Sometimes they don't, but that doesn't stop them from being good. We are talking about a player who has been at the top level for several years and he is still very young."

Ousmane Dembele has been called up to the France squad for the first time since November 2018 for their World Cup qualifiers later this month. 

The Barcelona forward has scored eight goals in 34 appearances across all competitions this season, and has done enough to convince Didier Deschamps he deserves another chance at international level. 

The 23-year-old's last appearance for Les Bleus came as a substitute in a 2-0 Nations League defeat to Netherlands more than two years ago. 

He is joined in the squad for the games against Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Bosnia-Herzegovina by Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele and Atletico Madrid's Thomas Lemar.

Ndombele has not played for his country since June 2019, while Lemar last featured for the World Cup winners in November of the same year. 

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, who has only just returned to training after missing six weeks with a thigh injury, is also included in Deschamps' penultimate squad ahead of the rearranged Euro 2020. 

Goalkeeper Alphonse Areola has been recalled, but there was no place in the 26-man squad for Corentin Tolisso, Dayot Upamecano, Nabil Fekir or Steven Nzonzi.

France begin their qualifying campaign at home to Ukraine on March 24 before away games with Kazakhstan on March 28 and Bosnia-Herzegovina three days later.

 

France squad:

Alphonse Areola (Fulham), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Mike Maignan (Lille); Lucas Digne (Everton), Leo Dubois (Lyon), Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Clement Lenglet (Barcelona), Ferland Mendy (Real Madrid), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid), Kurt Zouma (Chelsea); N'Golo Kante (Chelsea), Tanguy Ndombele (Tottenham), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Moussa Sissoko (Tottenham Hotspur); Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona), Thomas Lemar (Atletico Madrid), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain).

Tanguy Ndombele is refusing to give up on his chances of playing for France at Euro 2020 after becoming more "efficient" for Tottenham this season.

Spurs splashed out a club-record fee, reported to be £64million, to sign the midfielder from Lyon ahead of the 2019-20 campaign, but injuries and poor form contributed to an underwhelming start in the Premier League.

Indeed, a lack of game time under Jose Mourinho led to suggestions Spurs may decide to move Ndombele on and Juventus were linked with an interest last year.

But Ndombele has improved dramatically this term, appearing in 24 of Tottenham's 27 top-flight games and starting 22 of those.

He has scored three goals in the Premier League, more than he managed last season, while only Harry Kane and Son Heung-min have created more chances for team-mates.

Having earned the trust of the tough-to-please Mourinho, Ndombele – ahead of Spurs' derby clash with Arsenal on Sunday – said he was focused on regaining a spot in France's squad, having last played for Les Bleus in June 2019.

Asked why he thinks France boss Didier Deschamps has overlooked him, Ndombele told RMC Sport: "I was simply less efficient. I always want to be called up, but there are a lot of players in my position, good players, and the competition is there.

"But I have tried to raise my head since the start of the season and do my best to be called into the next squad.

"When I enter the field, I know that I will be watched by the staff. Even when you're hurt, you think about it.

"I always want to be selected; it's something beautiful for a player to be in the France team. You tell yourself that you are one of the 23 best in your country.

"In addition, this is a great generation, a very good team. We all want to be called. I'm not going to lie, the France team, I miss it."

Ndombele is the only French midfielder from Europe's 'top five' leagues to have made at least 50 tackles and 150 ball recoveries across all competitions this season, in tandem with creating 20 or more chances and a minimum five 'big chances'.

Deschamps names his last squad before Euro 2020 in the coming week, ahead of the World Cup qualifiers against Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

While Ndombele wants to be called up for that triple-header at the end of the month, he will not mind if he has to wait for his international return in Deschamps' tournament squad.

"The most important list is the one before the Euros," Ndombele said. "It's always better to be called now, we want to be on all the lists, but if the coach calls me just for the Euros, I take it too."

Zinedine Zidane says coaching France remains a career goal of his but remains confident Real Madrid can achieve "great things" this season.

The Madrid boss has seen his position come under scrutiny this season after some high-profile defeats, but he thinks success in LaLiga and the Champions League remains possible.

Zidane has regularly been linked with managing his native France, with incumbent head coach Didier Deschamps recently tipping him to succeed him in the role.

French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet, meanwhile, has said Zidane would be the first person he would call should he ever need to replace Deschamps.

Ahead of Madrid's home match with Valencia on Sunday, Zidane was open about his aspirations.

"I am passionate about football and you never know about the future," he said.

"My relationship with Mr Le Graet is long, since 1998.

"The national team is a goal, like I said when I started coaching 10 years ago, but now I'm here.

"We will see. My mind is here. I am at Madrid and I enjoy every day."

Zidane added: "We know the pressure that comes with representing Real Madrid. We do our own thing, what we can control.

"We know we can achieve great things and we are going to put all our energy into these two [remaining] competitions."

Madrid are eyeing a fourth win in five matches when they host mid-table Valencia.

But after winning the reverse fixture 4-1, Valencia are looking to complete a league double over Madrid for the first time since 1967-68 season.

To do that, they will need to end a long streak.

Madrid have avoided defeat in their past 12 home LaLiga games against Valencia (seven wins and five draws) since a 3-2 loss in March 2008, and they have scored at least two goals in nine of them.

Didier Deschamps has tipped Zinedine Zidane to "go full circle" by succeeding him as head coach of the France national team.

Zidane is in his second spell as Real Madrid boss and finds himself under intense pressure following Wednesday's defeat to third-tier side Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey, a week on from losing to Athletic Bilbao in the Supercopa de Espana semi-finals.

He was part of France's World Cup-winning squad in 1998 and has long been touted as the leading contender to replace his former team-mate Deschamps when the 52-year-old's deal expires next year.

It is a job Deschamps, who guided Les Blues to World Cup success in 2018, can see Zidane taking in the near future.

Asked in an interview with BFMTV if Zidane could be his successor, Deschamps replied: "Yes, obviously.

"I know this will be discussed again and it makes sense. It would be like going full circle."

Since bringing an end to his trophy-laden playing career and taking over at Madrid in 2016, Zidane has won 11 trophies, including the Champions League three seasons running.

"He always had a decisive element to his game and I never had a problem with that," Deschamps said. "Afterwards, everything he has done... Zizou is Zizou."

As well as winning the 2018 World Cup, Deschamps also guided France to the European Championship final two years earlier, when they were beaten by Portugal on home soil.

The reigning world champions will face Hungary, Portugal and Germany in the rescheduled Euro 2020 finals later this year.

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