The season in Europe is not finished yet, with a double-header of matchdays in qualifying for Euro 2024 set to take place over the next week. AFP Sport picks out some of the main storylines with a year to go until the tournament in Germany:

Will Mbappe be distracted?

Talk of Kylian Mbappe’s possible departure from Paris Saint-Germain has resurfaced in recent days and dominated headlines in France after the striker told his club he would not extend his contract beyond next year.

France coach Didier Deschamps will hope Mbappe can remain focused for another few days as last year’s World Cup runners-up go to Portugal to play Gibraltar and then host Greece in Group B.

“It has created a buzz and is on the front page of the papers, but we can’t control that,” said France’s Liverpool defender Ibrahima Konate on Wednesday.

“He has not changed with us. He is just the same, as joyful as ever and teasing people. I have not seen a change in his behaviour.”

Mbappe was named as France’s new captain before they began Euro qualifying with wins over the Netherlands and Ireland. With the Dutch currently focused on the Nations League finals, France can all but wrap up qualification by claiming back-to-back victories.

England to maintain maximum points?

England enjoyed a superb start in Group C as they won 2-1 in Italy in March and then defeated Ukraine. They will now be expected to keep up their perfect record and pull away from Italy, who are at the Nations League finals. England are away to Malta, a team ranked fourth-last in Europe, on Friday. They follow that by hosting North Macedonia at Old Trafford.

Midfield star Jude Bellingham, who has just completed a move from Borussia Dortmund to Real Madrid, is injured but Southgate could give a debut to Crystal Palace winger Eberechi Eze.

“It’s been a journey getting back to the standard and putting in the performances but it’s been a good one,” said Eze, who withdrew two years ago from England’s provisional Euro 2020 squad with an Achilles injury but is coming off a fine season with Palace.

200th cap for Ronaldo?

Cristiano Ronaldo is in Portugal’s squad for their Group J games against Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iceland.

The 38-year-old links up with Roberto Martinez’s squad after scoring 14 goals in 16 games in the Saudi league following his move to Al Nassr in January.

“It is always a special feeling to return home,” he posted on Instagram this week.

Ronaldo silenced those who doubted Martinez’s wisdom in calling him up by scoring a brace in each of Portugal’s qualifiers in March, albeit against Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.

These two fixtures promise to be harder, but Ronaldo will hope to add to his international record of 122 goals for his country. He also holds the men’s international appearance record of 198 and can bring up a double-century if he plays in both fixtures.

Can Scotland tame Haaland?

Erling Haaland missed Norway’s opening qualifiers in March due to injury and his side struggled in his absence, losing 3-0 in Spain and drawing 1-1 in Georgia.

That means Stale Solbakken’s side will be desperate to have the 22-year-old back for Saturday’s meeting with Scotland, who have maximum points after two games in Group A.

Norway will have to hope that Haaland, who scored 52 goals this season for Manchester City, has recovered from the wild celebrations which followed Pep Guardiola’s side winning the Champions League last weekend.

“I’m wary you’re all going to go down the route of Haaland, Haaland, Haaland,” Scotland head coach Steve Clarke said recently.

“There are lots of other players we have to deal with as well.”

A new Scandinavian superstar?

There is another exciting striker emerging out of Scandinavia.

Rasmus Hojlund, 20, made a huge impression in Denmark’s opening qualifiers in March, netting a hat-trick in a 3-1 win against Finland and scoring twice in a shock 3-2 defeat in Kazakhstan.

Hojlund finished the season with nine goals in Serie A for Atalanta. He will now aim to keep up his fine form for Denmark as they take on Northern Ireland and Slovenia in Group H.


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