Didier Deschamps is not worried about Antoine Griezmann's lack of form ahead of France's Nations League Finals campaign this week.

The 30-year-old returned to Atletico Madrid from Barcelona in a high-profile transfer at the end of August following two largely underwhelming campaigns at Camp Nou.

Griezmann was expected to revive his career in the Spanish capital, but he has managed just one goal and no assists in seven appearances in his second spell with Atletico.

That solitary strike came in last week's 2-1 win over Milan in the Champions League, though he was again left out of Atletico's starting lineup for Saturday's showdown with Barcelona.

He has been named in Deschamps' 23-man squad for this week's Nations League Finals, which will see France face Belgium in the semi-finals on Thursday.

Les Blues will then either take on Italy or Spain in Sunday's final or third-placed play-off, depending on the outcome of both semi-finals.

And Deschamps has no concerns about using Griezmann, who has 41 goals in 98 caps for France, in those matches.

"His goal in the Champions League was very positive," Deschamps said at a news conference on Monday. "Even though he didn't start, that goal will give him confidence.

"He has returned to a club he knows well, but with different players around him. He can't just click his fingers.

"But because of his qualities and state of mind, I do not worry about him. I know he will be happy to join up with the France team."

Griezmann played a full part for France in their World Cup semi-final clash with Belgium en route to lifting the trophy in 2018, setting up Samuel Umtiti's winning goal.

The Nations League presents France with a chance to add to that triumph, having exited Euro 2020 at the last-16 stage, but they must overcome two sides ranked in the world's top eight.

"There is a title at stake; we have a semi-final to play against one of the best teams in the world," he said. 

"With Italy and Spain on the other side, there are four of us fighting for this title. We did everything to qualify for this final phase in a very tough group. 

"We want to get this title. Before there were two titles: the Euros and the World Cup. Now there is the Nations League. Winning it is our goal."

Belgium have named a vastly experienced squad for the Finals, with Jan Vertonghen, Axel Witsel, Toby Alderweireld and Eden Hazard all boasting over 100 caps.

Roberto Martinez's men only reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2020, where they were beaten by tournament winners Italy – their only defeat in 17 matches and one of only two defeats in 31 games since November 2018.

Ranked number one in the world, Deschamps acknowledged France face a big task against Belgium on Thursday.

"They have evolved well, with six or seven players on 100 or more caps," he said. "They are the best team in the FIFA rankings and have a very experienced core.

"It is a beautiful generation of players, but one that has not yet had the happiness of success at the Euros or World Cup."

Deschamps added: "It's going to be a fight at a physical, tactical and technical level. There is a lot of respect between myself and Roberto Martinez and also between the players.

"But there is of course a rivalry there because we are border countries, which we also have with Italy and Spain.

"There was also the 2018 semi-final we played, but this match cannot change what happened then. That will not have too much importance this week."

Bryan Gil has replaced Marcos Llorente in Spain's squad for the Nations League semi-final against Italy.

Atletico Madrid announced on Sunday that midfielder Llorente suffered a right thigh injury in their 2-0 LaLiga win over Barcelona on Saturday.

It is not clear how long he will be sidelined for but Llorente will play no part as Spain aim to get some small measure of revenge over European champions Italy, who beat them on penalties in the semi-finals of Euro 2020.

Instead, Tottenham winger Bryan will potentially get the chance to feature at San Siro on Wednesday.

Bryan has already won six caps for Spain during his international career and comes into Luis Enrique's squad despite a low-key start to his Spurs career.

Since joining Tottenham from Sevilla in July, Bryan has made only eight appearances in all competitions.

Three of those have come in the Premier League and four in the Europa Conference League with the other in the EFL Cup.

Bryan has yet to find the net for Spurs and has two chances created to his name.

 

N'Golo Kante will miss the entirety of the Nations League Finals as Didier Deschamps is unwilling to take a risk with France's superstar midfielder, who has contracted coronavirus having just returned to fitness.

Kante was named in the French squad for the previous international break but missed out through injury, included only as an unused substitute against Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Chelsea man has not played for his country since Euro 2020 and will not now be involved against Belgium in the Nations League semi-final, nor in either the final or third-place play-off after that.

Kante was missing from Chelsea's 1-0 defeat at Juventus on Wednesday due to testing positive for COVID-19.

France coach Deschamps acknowledges Kante would have been cleared in time for the second Nations League Finals match on October 10, but he doubts the midfielder would be in any condition to play to the best of his ability.

"It is 10 days since Monday, so you calculate," Deschamps said. "There was always the assumption that he would be there for the second game, but after 10 days without training, knowing that he was injured recently...

"I would prefer him to be there, but I also prefer him 100 per cent. Let him take advantage of this period to regain his physical freshness."

There is also no Kingsley Coman, who has been restricted to just eight minutes since the previous international break, or Thomas Lemar, as he battles a hamstring issue.

Steve Mandanda has been dropped after losing out to Pau Lopez in the Marseille goal, while Olivier Giroud's recent return for Milan is not enough for a recall – a "sporting choice", Deschamps explained, after other forwards impressed last time.

But the defence now looks a lot healthier, as Bayern Munich men Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez are able to rejoin the squad, as does team-mate Dayot Upamecano, who had to pull out last time. Deschamps listed Hernandez's brother Theo as a midfielder.

Crucially, the calf injury that kept Kylian Mbappe out of France's most recent games has subsided, meaning Deschamps must again attempt to strike a balance in attack, where Antoine Griezmann and Karim Benzema excelled in the Paris Saint-Germain forward's absence.

Griezmann, who has Deschamps' backing after a tricky start to his second stint at Atletico Madrid, scored twice against Finland – the first assisted by Benzema – as Les Bleus bounced back from draws with Ukraine and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"What happened is in the past," Deschamps added. "There is a title to play for. We have a semi-final to play against one of the best teams in Europe and the world, if not the best.

"We have given everything to qualify for the Finals. Now, we are there. We keep the same state of mind; we want to go for the title."

France squad:

Benoit Costil (Bordeaux), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Mike Maignan (Milan); Leo Dubois (Lyon), Lucas Digne (Everton), Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Jules Kounde (Sevilla), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich), Raphael Varane (Manchester United); Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille), Theo Hernandez (Milan), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurelien Tchouameni (Monaco), Jordan Veretout (Roma); Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Moussa Diaby (Bayer Leverkusen), Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain).

Luis Enrique has no interest in replacing Ronald Koeman at Barcelona while he is still under contract as Spain head coach.

Koeman is under growing pressure at Camp Nou following Wednesday's 3-0 defeat to Benfica, which makes it back-to-back defeats for Barca to begin a Champions League campaign for the first time ever.

The Catalan giants have now won just one of their past five matches in all competitions ahead of Saturday's trip to reigning LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid.

According to reports from Spain, Barca chiefs will consider replacing Koeman during the upcoming international break should they fall to another defeat this weekend.

Luis Enrique is rumoured to be one of the club's top choices to take over should Koeman leave, but the former Blaugrana boss intends to serve the rest of his contract with Spain, which is due to expire after the World Cup in December 2022.

Asked if Barcelona president Joan Laporta had contacted him regarding the position, Luis Enrique said: "I don't think he has my phone number.

"I'm a coach here for a second time, and it's my custom to keep my word. I'll be here until my contract ends, for sure.

"Despite my proud history with that club, I don't want to get involved in other people's business."

Luis Enrique, who won nine trophies across a hugely successful three-year spell in charge of Barca, was speaking at a news conference on Thursday after announcing Spain's 23-man squad for the upcoming Nations League Finals.

Spain face European champions Italy in next Wednesday's semi-final at San Siro, with the winners of that match to take on either Belgium or France in the final four days later.

 

The high-profile match in Milan presents La Roja with a chance to exact some revenge following their penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 semi-finals a little under three months ago.

The Azzurri went on to beat England on penalties in the final and have remained unbeaten in their three World Cup qualifiers since that Wembley triumph.

Roberto Mancini's men set a new all-time record of 37 matches without defeat in men's international football with their 5-0 win over Lithuania earlier this month, surpassing the benchmark previously set by Brazil between 1993 and 1996.

"Italy are at their peak and were deserving champions at the Euros," Luis Enrique told reporters. "They have continued with that streak since then, but the day they lose for the first time is near. 

"We were capable of beating them in the tournament, but we didn't. This game will demand a lot from us as they are a team of the highest level, which is where we want to be.

"Whichever players I select on the day, I hope it will be another spectacular game."

Barcelona teenager Gavi has been called up by Spain head coach Luis Enrique for the first time ahead of the upcoming Nations League Finals.

The La Masia product made his senior bow at club level in last month's 2-1 win over Getafe as a second-half substitute and has featured a further five times in all competitions.

At 17 years and 49 days, Gavi became the second-youngest player to make his full debut for the Catalans in last week's stalemate with Cadiz, behind only Ansu Fati (16 years, 318 days).

He is now in line to make his first appearance for Spain in next Wednesday's Nations League semi-final clash with European champions Italy at San Siro, with the winners of that match to face either Belgium or France in the final four days later.

Explaining his decision to call up the youngster, Luis Enrique said at a news conference on Thursday: "I like what I have seen from him. His level has surprised me.

"I have known about him for a long time as he's a player from La Masia. I have no doubt about his future performances.

"With there being players absent I can have a look at others. It's a shame for those who are not with us, but now others can join up.

"Gavi still has to improve, of course, but with and without the ball he can contribute to the side. Seeing what I have seen so far, he will be up to the task.

"It would be risky to put a young player in the side. Perhaps he has been called up too early, but he may still start against Italy. We will see if he can adapt to our side."

While Gavi is preparing to link up with the national side, fellow Barca youngster Fati has not been included by Luis Enrique having only just returned from a serious knee injury.

"It is a joy to see him back, and yes, with him playing again I wanted to bring him back, even if it was not to play and for him to just be with us," Luis Enrique said. 

"We have to put that situation in context, and right now the best option is that he is not with us and that he continues playing and adding minutes for his club."

Gavi is not alone in earning a first call-up to the senior squad as Yeremy is also included after scoring one goal and setting three up for Villarreal in five LaLiga games this term.

Only five players have been directly involved in more goals in the Spanish top flight this term, all but one of whom have played at least one game more.

Chelsea wing-back Marcos Alonso is also part of Luis Enrique's 23-man squad, earning his first call-up in three years, but there is no place for his team-mate Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Luis Enrique has once again overlooked Real Madrid's contingent of players, while Alvaro Morata, Gerard Moreno, Dani Olmo and Raul Albiol are nursing injuries.

Ander Herrera and Brahim Diaz, who have been in good form for Paris Saint-Germain and Milan respectively, are also left out.

 

Spain squad:

David de Gea (Manchester United), Robert Sanchez (Brighton and Hove Albion), Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao); Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Eric Garcia (Manchester City), Gavi (Barcelona), Inigo Martinez (Athletic Bilbao), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Marcos Alonso (Chelsea), Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad), Pau Torres (Villarreal), Pedro Porro (Sporting CP), Sergio Reguilon (Tottenham); Pedri (Barcelona), Rodri (Manchester City), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona); Ferran Torres (Manchester City), Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad), Pablo Fornals (West Ham), Pablo Sarabia (Sporting CP), Yeremy (Villarreal).

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