Win or bust for Spain

As reigning World and European champions, it seemed inconceivable that Spain would be experiencing difficulty in their quest to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.

However, chasing a fourth successive major tournament win seems a distant target right now, as Friday's 1-1 draw with Finland means that their midweek fixture against France is a crucial tie. A win for Didier Deschamps' men would open up a five point lead at the top of Group I, almost certainly leaving Spain to attempt qualification through the playoffs.

Currently sitting two points adrift of France, Vincent del Bosque's side travel to Paris on Tuesday night in a bid to regain possession of top spot, and prepare themselves for the final three games of the group phase.

Del Bosque has already been dealt a major blow in their bid for a victory, as Barcelona left back Jordi Alba will miss the game through a hamstring injury, meaning Arsenal's Nacho Monreal is likely to step in to the side.

Striker David Villa is remaining upbeat about La Roja’s automatic qualification hopes, saying that the weekend’s draw with Finland will have no effect on their approach to Tuesday night’s clash.

"We were going there for a win anyway and now we do so with a stronger motive. Our way of playing is always the same. Even if we had beaten Finland we would have played the same in Saint-Denis. We aren't thinking of the playoffs, or anything else beyond getting a win against France on Tuesday."

Meanwhile, France know that a draw would put Spain in an equally difficult position, but Coach Deschamps is telling his players to stick with an attacking mentality that gained them three points against Georgia on Friday.

"The reality is that Spain will still come to enjoy possession and to win the game," Deschamps said. "I can't prepare for the match telling the guys 'let's defend, let's defend' even if Spain put you in such a position."

Les Bleus’ boss started with two strikers in a 4-4-2 system against Georgia, as Olivier Giroud partnered Karim Benzema, and despite the former netting the opening goal, speculation suggests that France will revert to playing a lone striker in a 4-5-1, suggesting that Deschamps isn't actually going to encourage such an attacking style.

Having been dumped out of Euro 2012 by Spain, France have improved under the former Juventus man, and youngsters Raphael Varane and Paul Pogba have added energy to a side that has underachieved for a number of years, and so far it's proven to be a success, though facing Spain is a different proposition to the likes of Georgia.

Spain notoriously like to keep the ball for long spells of the game, resulting in the opposition chasing a lot. Young players need to stay disciplined when they don't have the ball, both positionally and mentally, and Spain will be hoping to expose some inexperience in the French side.

Anything but a win for Spain will all but end their hopes of automatic qualification, whereas three points will put them in pole position, with just Finland, Belarus and Georgia to face – all games which Spain will feel they can win.