France host Bulgaria on Friday in their first home match since losing the Euro 2016 final to Portugal and the pressure will be on Les Bleus to secure a win.
Didier Deschamps remains at the helm and since that extra time loss to the Portuguese, France have played twice; a friendly win in Italy and a World Cup qualifying draw in Belarus.
France find themselves in a competitive looking Group A with the Netherlands and Sweden, while Bulgaria could also be considered as contenders to qualify for Russia in two years time. The draw with Belarus has put the pressure on already and Deschamps will be eager to get their qualification campaign on track.
Bulgaria did manage an impressive victory in Portugal earlier this year but a 4-3 win over Luxembourg – in which they scored a last minute winner – in their previous qualifier gives little encouragement to any idea they can get a result in France.
France are capable of getting a big win but as Deschamps is building a new-look defence there may well be gaps Bulgaria can exploit, and as such I’m reluctant to go for a handicap bet or clean sheets in this one.
Aymeric Laporte and Presnel Kimpembe go into the international fixtures looking for debuts, while between them Djibril Sidibe, Layvin Kurzawa and Lucas Digne have just 20 caps. Those may well be talented players but at present they have not formed any kind of partnership at international level so the 39/20 on offer for both teams to score really appeals.
In the goalscorers market Kurzawa could be worth a punt at 53/20 to score at anytime. He may be a left-back by trade but he does like to get forward and has one goal in four outings for Les Bleus, and five in 19 Ligue 1 games for Paris Saint-Germain. Dimitri Payet at 21/20 and Paul Pogba at 39/20 are the standout picks in the anytime market however, with both players seeking to put issues at club level to one side when they turn out for France over the weekend.
For Bulgaria, Aleksandar Tonev is a potential goalscorer and with an anytime price of 11/1 he’s hard to ignore. Tonev, formerly of Aston Villa and Celtic, never seems to find the net at club level but he has five in 23 international outings – including two in just three appearances in 2016.
Bulgaria have only failed to score once in 2016 and with France hardly clean sheet specialists both teams to score at 39/20 is my top bet for this qualifier, while Tonev and Payet are the picks from the anytime goalscorer market.