The next set of international fixtures are nearly upon us with only one weekend of fixtures remaining before the final international break of the calendar year.
It’s arguably the most decisive break of the season so far, with several countries’ World Cup qualifying fate set to be decided within the next fortnight.
Portugal currently sit second in Group A and will need a couple of positive results to ensure qualification for next year’s World Cup. They travel to Ireland later this month before finishing off their group against Serbia, who are currently top.
Portugal have announced that three Manchester United players will be called up: defender Diogo Dalot, midfielder Bruno Fernandes and star striker Cristiano Ronaldo.
It’s not as good news for a couple of Manchester United players, with Raphael Varane and Anthony Martial both missing out on France’s next fixtures.
Varane, who sustained a groin injury in the UEFA Nations League final against Spain earlier this season, has suffered another setback and will be ruled out for a month, the club has confirmed.
Martial, who has been a mainstay in the France setup for the last 18 months, with his EURO 2020 omission due to injury the only exception, has been left out of Didier Deschamps’ squad for games against Kazakhstan and Finland, the France national team has confirmed.
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Diogo Dalot made his senior debut for Portugal during this summer’s European Championship and although he will be happy to have elevated himself from the U21’s side, regular first-team football is needed if he is to keep his place in Fernando Santos’ side.
Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo are near givens in the side, with both players pivotal to their hopes of sealing qualification for the biggest football tournament next year.
Similarly to United’s Portuguese duo, Paul Pogba is also almost certainly in every France squad if he’s fit. Raphael Varane boasts a similar status on the international level but will be disappointed to miss out through injury.
Martial’s omission is eyecatching – most people would have expected him to miss out earlier than he has done but the fact he has been included in every France squad for the last year when fit is telling.
The 25-year-old missed this summer’s international tournament due to a serious knee injury but has been trusted by Deschamps prior to and after the event. His luck seems to have run out, however, as he will be forced to watch his team-mates from home.
Martial’s lack of minutes on club level was going to hurt his chances of featuring for France eventually and by the latest evidence, it seems like that day has arrived.