Nations League Preview - France vs Croatia
France are the reigning world and Nations League champions, but they will head into Monday's clash with Croatia at the Stade de France sitting bottom of League A Group 1 and without a win.
It has been a testing international break for Les Bleus as they have opened their Nations League campaign with a home defeat to Denmark followed by back-to-back draws, including against Croatia in Split less than a week ago.
That run of results leaves Didier Deschamps; side in real danger of being relegated from the top tier of the Nations League, especially if they fail to beat Croatia on Monday.
Croatia were bottom of the group prior to their impressive 1-0 victory in Denmark last time out, with Mario Pasalic's second-half goal not only handed them their first win, but also boosted confidence ahead of their trip to Paris.
History appears to be on France's side
Despite their poor start to the campaign, France will take confidence from their impressive record against Croatia as they are unbeaten in the nine previous meetings between the two sides, registering six wins and three draws.
The most memorable of those successes was the 4-2 victory in the 2018 World Cup final when an own goal and strikes from Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe helped them to their second world title.
France's record against Croatia is particularly impressive on home soil as only once have they failed to beat Vatreni and that was a goalless draw in an international friendly over 11 years ago.
Didier Deschamps did see his side suffer a rare home defeat to Denmark earlier this month, but France have not lost back-to-back home matches for almost a decade since Japan and Germany both escaped with narrow victories.
Mbappe fit and firing
Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe picked up a muscular injury against Denmark, but he was able to return as a substitute against Austria last time out, coming off the bench to score a late equaliser in that game.
Mbappe appeared to emerge through that cameo appearance unscathed and Deschamps is confident the 23-year-old will be fit enough to start on Monday.
That is ominous news for Croatia as Mbappe has averaged a goal a game for France so far this year, while he has twice before netted against Zlatko Dalic's side, including in the World Cup final.
Croatia have no fresh injury concerns, but left-backs Borna Barisic and Borna Sosa were both sidelined against Denmark and are expected to miss out again.
Josip Juranovic filled in admirably in the duo's absence on Friday, but up against Mbappe and co, it could be a difficult evening for the Celtic defender.
Croatia's impressive away record to be put to the test
Croatia opened their Nations League campaign with a disappointing 3-0 home defeat to Austria, but that is the only loss Dalic's side have suffered in 12 matches since Euro 2020 last summer.
Vatreni have particularly caught the eye on the road, with Friday's 1-0 win in Denmark representing their fourth successive away triumph, during which time they have scored 12 goals and conceded just one.
The introduction of captain Luka Modric and fellow midfielder Mateo Kovacic certainly handed Croatia the boost they needed to get over the line in Copenhagen, and both of those players are expected to return to the starting XI on Monday, along with experienced defenders Domagoj Vida and Duje Caleta-Car.
The visitors will certainly need all of that experience to hand, as they will be facing a wounded animal in France, who are surely not going to go through this entire international break without registering a victory.