Blanc challenges Nasri to deliver for France

PARIS - Samir Nasri's brilliant performance on his Manchester City debut is exactly the kind of display Laurent Blanc expects from the midfielder as France travel to Albania for a Euro 2012 qualifier on Friday.

Nasri, who joined City from Arsenal during the close season, set up two goals in his team's 5-1 hammering of Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, but the Frenchman still has to show he can take it to the highest level with Les Bleus.

France coach Blanc said Nasri had "the ability to do better" after they drew 1-1 with Chile in a friendly last month.

"It would be good for some players to become important, just as they are for their club. We need this. It is crucial," Blanc told reporters earlier this week at France's training camp on the outskirts of Paris.

"I hope [he] will confirm what we saw with Manchester City."

Nasri, however, said he did not need that kind of cutting remark from his coach.

"This could maybe mean that he rates me highly," Nasri said.

"But, after all, just repeating it publicly is not going to make it better. It happens that you can have off days."

Blanc, who also believes Bayern Munich midfielder Franck Ribery should play at a higher standard for France, said that he only meant well when he made the remark.

"I tell them that because I like them a lot. Our job is to tell them the truth, that is why we say it to them but also to many others," the 1998 world champion said.

Even if Nasri is not at his best, France, who lead Group D with 13 points from six games, should be able to overcome Albania, who are five points behind them in fifth place.

But Blanc remained cautious.

"Some say that Albania is one of those countries who have no team but the gap between the small and big teams has been narrowing," said Blanc.

The coach faces a defensive headache ahead of the game as he will have to make do with the absence of the injured Philippe Mexes and Mamadou Sakho.

Valencia's Adil Rami is suspended as Eric Abidal and Laurent Koscielny, if he shakes off back pain, should pair up in central defence.

"We have to be cautious. On the two [Albania] games that I watched, they have a lot of energy, especially at home, and they give everything," said Blanc.

Albania coach Josip Kuze could field Ervin Skela although the midfielder has been without a club for the last six months.

Skela, as well as Erjon Bogdani, are one goal shy of Alban Bushi's record of 14 goals for the national team.

Teams:

Albania - Samir Ujkani; Kristi Vangjeli, Armend Dallku, Lorik Cana, Debatik Curri; Ansi Agolli, Ervin Bulku, Ervin Skela, Altin Lala; Erjon Bogdani, Hamdi Salihi.

France - Hugo Lloris; Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny, Eric Abidal, Patrice Evra; Alou Diarra, Yann Mvila, Samir Nasri, Franck Ribery; Kevin Gameiro, Karim Benzema.


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