France's top division is set to kick-off this weekend. Despite PSG's domination there is a lot to play for this season in Ligue 1
On Friday night the new season of Ligue 1 kicks off as champions Paris Saint-Germain travel the short journey north to face Stade de Reims. The champions will hope that their title charge will begin with a bang in the Champagne region, whereas the home side will be hoping to put the celebrations on ice.
There is little doubt that the side from the Capital are the heavy favourites to lift their third consecutive crown this season, with the opposition either standing still or getting worse, the champions have improved their squad and will be looking for total domination.
PSG started the season in Beijing last week, beating Guingamp 2-0 to lift the Trophée des Champions in the traditional curtain raiser. New signing Serge Aurier has already joined the squad and Brazilian David Luiz joined training this week, taking David Beckham’s old No. 32 jersey.
It would take an absolute miracle for PSG not to be crowned champions this season, the only hope is that the Champions League campaign causes a huge distraction, but with the strength and depth that Laurent Blanc has at his disposal, it’s very unlikely.
This doesn’t mean the league void from excitement, there is more to play for than ever, with a whole host of clubs battling for multiple prizes.
Below PSG you have five teams realistically fighting for the other two Champions League places. Monaco aren’t as strong as last season, they should still have enough to finish second or third, but there are a few doubts creeping in, and the chasing pack could close the distance and put pressure on new boss Leandro Jardim.
Lille finished third last season and having confirmed their place in either the Champions League or Europa League group stage, they are going to have a busy season on their hands, step forward Marseille, Lyon and Saint-Etienne.
OM have Argentine boss Marcelo Bielsa in charge, and the former Athletic Bilbao coach has a very talented squad in his hands. If he can work the same kind of magic he did at Chile and Bilbao, Marseille could push for second place. They will definitely do better than last season’s sixth place finish.
Under new coach Hubert Fournier, Lyon are putting their faith in youth. If Alexandre Lacazette, Clement Grenier and Maxime Gonalons can all stay at the club beyond September, and Fournier can inspire this side like he did at Reims, it could be a very positive season for OL
Les Verts have put their faith in Norwich City’s Ricky van Wolfswinkel and coach Christophe Galtier hopes the Dutch striker can shake off the awful spell in England with goals in France. Saint-Etienne haven’t made many changes this summer, it could be the end of the road for their push towards third, but they will be there or thereabouts.
Whoever misses out in the top three will fight for the two Europa League places, but they will also feel the challenge of Rennes, Bordeaux, Toulouse and maybe one or two others for a place in the top six. There is a definite chance that one of the traditional big names could slip down the table.
Speaking of slipping down the table, as is becoming tradition in Ligue 1, the relegation battle is going to be epic this season. You could probably include up to 10 teams in the fight to stay in the league this campaign.
Newly promoted sides FC Metz, RC Lens and Caen are all in the mix. Lens place in the league is actually still up for debate. Financial restrictions and question marks over owner Hafiz Mammadov – Sheffield Wednesday’s new owner – have sparked an appeal by FC Sochaux, to have themselves reinstated into Ligue 1.
You can also include Guingamp, Evian and Nantes as potential cannon fodder, plus there will be one or two side that either exceed and fail to meet expectations.
It is going to be one hell of a season in France. With money at an all-time low, the emphasis is on young players to break through and take their opportunities. This is what makes Ligue 1 special and that will continue this season.
Games can be tight and tense, but when the fireworks are unleashed, it can be spectacular. We will bring you updates all season on Here Is The City. Make sure to stay tuned.