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Inside FutbolInside Futbol

06 October 2018

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France

Paris Saint-Germain Shape Up for Three-Peat – France Ligue 1 Season Preview




John Welsh


Having won Ligue 1 for the past two seasons, Paris-Saint-Germain would appear to be in a commanding position to claim a hat-trick of titles during the forthcoming campaign, beginning on 8th August. Although UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules have restricted the ambitions of PSG in the transfer market, their closest rivals at the head of Ligue 1 have also experienced financial problems partially due to ground redevelopments and in some cases declining owner ambitions. Could 2014/15 witness a repeat of the PSG domination of the league campaign?


Amid rumours of his replacement by ex-Juventus boss Antonio Conte, Laurent Blanc has managed to sign Chelsea defender David Luiz and Ivorian full-back Serge Aurier; Angel di Maria could yet arrive from Real Madrid. The PSG squad appears the most formidable in French football, but they will hope that Luiz and Thiago Silva will have regained their confidence after the resounding defeat of Brazil in the World Cup.

Monaco were runners-up last season but have since sold James Rodriguez and Emmanuel Riviere, with Radamel Falcao also a likely departure. Owner Dmitry Rybolovlev appears reluctant to oversee further ambitious spending after rumoured personal setbacks, although defender Aymen Abdennour has signed for about £10m after impressing on loan from Toulouse. Others may follow as Monaco look to improve their attacking options, but ex-Sporting Lisbon boss Leonardo Jardim faces a tough task maintaining Monaco as title challengers.


Lille will hope to improve upon their third position from last season under the astute management of Rene Girard. Divok Origi has been loaned back to Lille from Liverpool, but there have been few other significant transactions for a solid defensive team who should once again be top three challengers.

Saint-Etienne narrowly missed Champions League qualification last term and with manager Christophe Galtier staying at the club, another challenge for a top three placing is expected, with Premier League failure Ricky van Wolfswinkel probably finding more success in attack at this level following his arrival of loan from Norwich City.

 



Of the other teams hoping to compete for honours, Lyon, Marseille and Bordeaux will begin the season under new management. Hubert Fournier has arrived at Lyon after establishing Reims in Ligue 1 and despite the departure of Bafetimbi Gomis, Les Gones have a decent collection of young players and could improve upon their fifth position of last season.

Marseille have appointed Marcelo Bielsa as their new manager and he enjoyed much success at Atletico Bilbao while being recognised as a devotee of intensive attacking football. Although Mathieu Valbuena has departed for Dynamo Moscow, there is still plenty of attacking flair for Bielsa to work with at the Stade Velodrome.

Meanwhile, ex-France Under-21 coach Willy Sagnol has been appointed to the Bordeaux hot seat for his first club management role. Bordeaux are the draw specialists of French football and with a small budget at his disposal, a top six placing could be the limit of Sagnol's and the club's ambitions.

At the foot of the table, there will be pressure on Lens to strengthen their squad after the late ratification of their Ligue 1 berth. They may struggle, especially as they will play all home matches away from Stade Felix-Bollaert as it is redeveloped for Euro 2016.

Evian will probably be involved in another relegation tussle, but the signing of Gianni Bruno may be a shrewd move after he netted eight goals for Bastia last season. Nice may also be become embroiled in a fight for Ligue 1 survival after losing six of their final eight games of last season and with no significant summer signings.

Promoted teams Caen and Metz will also be hoping to secure their Ligue 1 status, but the performance of Montepellier will be interesting as they learn to play without the influential Remy Cabella who has moved to the Premier League.


Teams to watch

Lorient – Should Vincent Aboubakar stay at the club alongside new signing Jordan Ayew, new manager Sylvain Ripoli could have an interesting beginning replacing long serving boss Christian Gourcuff. Aboubakar netted 16 league goals last season, but Lorient will have to cope without Jeremie Aliadiere who has moved to Umm-Salal in Qatar.

Bastia – After securing successive promotions and establishing Bastia as a Ligue 1 outfit, Frederic Hantz has left the managerial role at the club to be replaced by Claude Makelele. Although he has been assistant coach at PSG since retiring from football, this will be the first occasion in the hot seat for the former Chelsea player. He has signed the experienced striker Brandao from Saint-Etienne and acquired young goalkeeper Alphonse Areola on loan from PSG in the wake of the retirement of Mickael Landreau.

 



Players to watch

Wissam Ben Yedder of Toulouse scored 16 league goals last season and is showing signs of more maturity after disciplinary problems in his early career.

Diafra Sakho is a prolific striker for Metz and at 24 years of age, he may hope to prove his goal prowess in Ligue 1.

Mathieu Duhamel is an experienced Ligue 2 striker who scored 24 goals for Caen last season to be the league's joint leading striker, alongside Sakho. Ligue 1 is a different proposition but he will be eager to impress in the top flight.

Floyd Ayite has joined Bastia after four seasons at Reims. He has impressed in an attacking role at Reims and could flourish under the management of Claude Makelele. 

 



Early season key fixtures

30th August:
Monaco v Lille
PSG v Saint Etienne

13th September:
Lyon v Monaco

20th September:
PSG v Lyon

4th October:
PSG v Monaco
Lyon v Lille

8th November:
PSG v Marseille (Le Classique)

29th November:
Saint Etienne v Lyon (Rhone Derby)


Published: Friday, 8th Aug 2014