SAINT-DENIS, France — Coach Laurent Blanc dreads to think what another defeat will do for France if the team doesn't take maximum points from the European Championship home qualifiers against Romania and Luxembourg.
France took three points from its opening two qualifiers, starting with an embarrassing 1-0 home defeat to Belarus and then a 2-0 win at Bosnia-Herzegovina, with goals from Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema and Chelsea's Florent Malouda.
France faces struggling Romania at Stade de France on Saturday, then plays Luxembourg in Metz on Tuesday.
"Over the three days we can do something good, something average, and I don't even want to envisage the third scenario," Blanc said on Friday. "We won't ease up on the players. We're here to make them improve."
Blanc's new-look team is a mixture of inexperienced young players, rare stalwarts like Malouda, and those like Benzema and midfielder Alou Diarra who have limited experience. Blanc has also been hit by fitness and injury problems.
"Of course we want to play well, of course we want to thrill the Stade de France crowd," Blanc said. "But we're all aware that the first thing we need to do is get a result."
Arsenal right back Bacary Sagna pulled out with a left thigh injury, and Blanc still has doubts over central midfielders Abou Diaby (ankle) and Diarra (ankle).
Blanc said Friday that Diaby has made good progress and that Diarra is likely to start the match.
However, Arsenal's Samir Nasri and Lyon's Yoann Gourcuff both return to add creativity to an otherwise industrious midfield. Nasri has scored four times in his last four club games.
Albania and Belarus top Group D with four points each, while coach Razvan Lucescu's Romania mustered two points after drawing 1-1 at home to Albania and 0-0 away to Belarus.
France and Romania drew 0-0 at the 2008 European Championship, and drew both 2010 World Cup qualifiers.
"We don't care whether we finish first or second (in the group), we just want to qualify," Romania forward Daniel Niculae said. "France is strongest in the group, but we will go there to win. It would give us a boost after our slow start."
Since replacing the unpopular Raymond Domenech after the World Cup debacle, Blanc has been trying to find a core within the team. But it's proving a frustrating task, and a lack of discipline still irritates him.
Malouda is the only player in the team who has made 50 appearances, while most of the others are nowhere near 30.
Blanc publicly reprimanded Benzema, his Real Madrid teammate Lassana Diarra, and Diaby for arriving late on Monday.
"Obviously I didn't appreciate it and I told them. They were punished," Blanc said, without saying what he did.
Blanc was particularly displeased with Benzema's late show as he did not even play for Madrid on Sunday.
"I've been a professional for five or six years and it's the first time I have been late," Benzema said Friday. "Name me one player who has never been late."
Although Benzema has played 29 times for France, Blanc still considers him to be relatively inexperienced.
"Of the 29 games, how many of those did he start?" Blanc said. "Half? That's not much."
Benzema says he is relishing the pressure ahead of Saturday's game.
"I know people are expecting a lot from me," Benzema said. "It's good to play a match when there's pressure."
Blanc is unlikely to drop Benzema after his superb goal against Bosnia, and Diaby will likely play if fit.
"Diaby has everything it takes to be a great player. He's a regular with Arsenal and he would have been for a long time if he hadn't been injured so much," Blanc said. "He's very skilful, when he gets going he can breach any defence."
Blanc is examining every possible way to rebuild the team's confidence, and has hired a psychological profiler to speak to the players.
"This is the kind of person who can help players cope with the pressure of a big match," Blanc said.
Before the matches against Belarus and Bosnia, Blanc had called on his World Cup-winning teammates from 1998 — Zinedine Zidane and Fabien Barthez — to inspire the players.
This time he invited Just Fontaine, the France great whose record of 13 goals during the 1958 World Cup still stands. But Fontaine had to cancel due to illness.
les bleus butts thank you for your time
im hoping blanc will take les bleus out of the shit hole that was wc. i mean hes <a=http://fourfourtwo.com/news/restofeurope/64665/default.aspx>looking for a psychologist for the team.</a>