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Blanc keeping team in check

LUXEMBOURG, France, March 25 – Coach Laurent Blanc insists that the return of Franck Ribery and Patrice Evra to the France fold will not overshadow the task of collecting all three points in Friday's Euro 2012 qualifier against Luxembourg.The pair, recalled for the first time since the 2010 World Cup fiasco, will start for Group D leaders France against tailenders Luxembourg, as the main additions to a side which otherwise resembles the team that beat England 2-1 last November.

Blanc has kept faith with Yoann Gourcuff despite the midfielder’s problems adapting to life at Lyon, as the France coach tries to recreate the Samir Nasri-Gourcuff tandem that succeeded so well against the English at Wembley.

Ribery and Evra will replace Mathieu Valbuena, who was not selected, and Eric Abidal, who is recovering after having a liver tumour removed.

And Blanc admitted that their high-profile return had complicated match preparations.

"We were expecting it. We knew that in these circumstances there was going to be turbulence or questions," said the France coach.

Both men’s reputations were seriously tarnished by events in South Africa, with Evra identified as the man chiefly responsible for the infamous training ground strike due to his role as captain.

Bans — three games for Ribery, five for Evra — saw both players frozen out of the picture as Blanc rebuilt the fragilised squad he had inherited from previous coach Raymond Domenech.

"We can only repeat that we want to turn the page, think about the present and the future, but by recalling Franck and Patrice we were aware that part of the week would be taken up with past events. But it was the best way to close this chapter," said Blanc.

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Blanc believes Ribery is the man to help solve problems they faced against Luxembourg whom they struggled to beat 2-0 in the first leg.

"They gave us problems, they defended well. When you play a team who are blocking the goal, if a player manages to eliminate one or two players that helps a lot. Franck is one of those players."

He added: "This match is important. There are rivals who have lost points against Luxembourg. We have to take the six points. We have to show more speed and intensity than we did in the first leg and to score as early as possible."

Alou Diarra, favourite to be named the next France captain, but facing difficulties at his club Bordeaux, has been overlooked in favour of Yann Mvila in defense.

But there are no surprises up front with Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema leading the attack, flanked by Florent Malouda and Ribery, with Bacary Sagna, Adil Rami and Philippe Mexes alongside Evra in defense.

Blanc, meanwhile, said he was biding his time before naming a new captain, and did not rule out a possible return of Evra.

"It’s possible there will be a new captain, that could also be Alou Diarra," he said.

"It’s preferable to pick two people, a captain and a vice-capitain, who would have responsibilities within the group. We’re still looking at this and it’s not what happened in South Africa which will sway me.

"You can’t be captain and do whatever you want. We have to have a look at those selected. At the end of the season on June 9 we could eventually chose two people."

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