France take on Sweden on Tuesday night and Didier Deschamps has declared that Manchester City defender Eliaquim Mangala should return to training on Sunday and would be able to play the second of their two friendlies.
Both Mangala and Loic Perrin had picked up calf injuries before the opening game against Albania, leading to the call-up for Chelsea centre-back Kurt Zouma, but if Mangala is fit, he should line-up beside Raphael Varane on Tuesday night.
"They will train normally with the group on Sunday," said coach Didier Deschamps on Sunday during France TV show Téléfoot.
On Friday it was former Montpellier defender Mapou Yanga-M’Biwa that started beside Varane, the centre-back has performed well in his loan spell at AS Roma from Newcastle United and put in a good display beside the Real Madrid defender, but he is far from first-choice in the French set-up.
Mamadou Sakho was Varane’s partner during the World Cup, but his lack of game time for Liverpool this season plus the mystery injury that has kept him out for the majority of the season has opened the door for challengers to his starters spot.
Fellow Premier League centre-back Laurent Koscielny has also been injured, so the likes of Mangala, Zouma, Yanga-M’Biwa and Perrin have an opportunity to impress the French boss.
Mangala has played five league games for Manchester City so far this season. He is only second behind Gael Clichy in tackles made this season and no one has made more clearances than the former FC Porto defender, but the jury is still out on the 23-year-old.
After spending £35 million on a defender that had still to break into his international starting XI, there is a lot of pressure on Mangala to become a very good player, very quickly.
Tuesday, playing against Sweden, alongside Varane would be a great opportunity for Mangala to show Deschamps and the Manchester City fans that he is able to become a top-class centre-back.
Mangala still hasn’t totally convinced the France fans that he can become as good as Varane, but without seeing him play regularly, they will never get the chance to see what he is capable of achieving.