PARIS (AP) -- Although France's players insist they only have Georgia on their minds for the World Cup qualifier on Friday, it is proving difficult not to think ahead to the critical match against Spain four days later.
Level on points with Spain at the top of Group I, France can take a big step toward automatic qualification for next year's tournament by winning both home matches.
"The press is focusing on Spain, but anything other than a win against Georgia will be a poor result. Our confidence must be high before the Spain game, and (coach) Didier Deschamps spoke to us about this," France striker Olivier Giroud said. "It's a turning point, undoubtedly. If we're still ahead of Spain after these two matches, we will have cause for hope."
Normally a team fighting for first place would expect strong backing from its home fans. But the notoriously hard to please Stade de France crowd are quick to get on the players' backs, leading to them tensing up and performing within themselves.
"We will need the crowd against Spain and against Georgia," Giroud said. "We'll have to create chances (because) Georgia will come here to defend. We shouldn't expect to score four or five goals. They have a lot of players in the Russian and Ukrainian leagues, which are in full bloom. There is less of a difference between the (national) teams than there was before."
Friday's match pits low-scoring France against a resilient Georgia team with little attacking threat but which frustrated Spain until very late on in a 1-0 home loss last September.
Georgia is in mid-table with four points but has played one game more than Spain and France. Coach Temuri Ketsbaia, who made his name as an attacking midfielder for Newcastle from 1997 to 2000, has limited options in attack -- his three strikers have four international goals between them.
Vladimir Dvalishvili (Legia Warsaw) and Nikoloz Gelashvili (Vfl Bochum) hardly play for their club sides, so Ketsbaia may pick Mate Vatsadze, who scored in a friendly win against Albania last month and has shown good recent form with Danish club Aarhus.
"We have been watching their game against Spain on television in our rooms," France center back Mamadou Sakho said. "We know the Georgia team is quite defensive. It will be quite a tricky game as a defender because we will have to keep concentrating until the end."
France coach Didier Deschamps has been boosted by the return to full training of wingers Franck Ribery and Jeremy Menez.
But midfielders Yohan Cabaye, Maxime Gonalons and Blaise Matuidi and center back Laurent Koscielny will be suspended if they are booked against Georgia, leaving Deschamps with a difficult decision to make over whether or not he should leave out some of his first-choice players.
Deschamps could give Real Madrid teenager Raphael Varane his first cap alongside Sakho and keep Koscielny fresh for the Spain match on Tuesday, while 20-year-old Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba is pushing for his first start.