Ligue 1 returns this weekend and, ahead of the new season, we’re highlighting three things for fans to look out for, offering pre-season betting tips.
Can anyone challenge Paris Saint-Germain?
Having won nine of the last 11 Ligue 1 titles, Paris Saint-Germain are, as always, favourites to be crowned French champions once again, but it could be all change at les Rouge-et-Bleu.
Luis Enrique is the new man in charge at PSG, becoming the seventh appointment of the Qatari-era.
The big question mark of this summer is hovering over the head of Kylian Mbappé, who hasn’t played a single minute of pre-season, having told the club he intends to leave on a free next summer.
PSG would like to sell their most-prized asset, to avoid losing him for nothing, but this seems unlikely, even with Mbappé currently training in with fellow-outcasts Julian Draxler and Georginio Wijnaldum.
Manuel Ugarte, Lucas Hernandez, Milan Škriniar, Marco Asensio and Lee Kang-in have all arrived in Paris this summer but, with no Lionel Messi and, potentially, no Mbappé, could someone else challenge for the title?
Four Champions League places now up for grabs
Lens will end their 21-year exile from the Champions League next month, having finished just one point below PSG, which is some achievement, coming just three years after promotion.
However, having sold star midfielder Seko Fofana to Al-Nassr, les Sang et Or are unlikely to be as strong this time round.
For the first time ever though, ahead of the competition’s expansion, Ligue 1 will have up to four Champions League spots, with the top three automatically qualifying and fourth entering the third round of qualification.
So, Olympique de Marseille, who will face Panathinaikos in this month’s qualifiers, Monaco, Lille, Olympique Lyonnais, Stade Rennais and others will all be targeting a top four finish.
Of those, who is best placed to gatecrash those spots?
Well, having finished eighth and seventh in the last two seasons, it certainly isn’t Lyon, with far better expected of Laurent Blanc and his team.
The obvious choice is Marseille, led by new manager Marcelino, which is an exciting appointment, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang amongst the new arrivals at Stade Vélodrome.
While there might not be a title race in Ligue 1, although you never know, with seven European spots to fight for, there’s plenty to play for towards the top of the table.
Will any more huge clubs drop into Ligue 2?
Down at the bottom, we’ve seen many of France’s most-historic clubs drop out of the top-flight in recent seasons, most notably Girondins de Bordeaux and Saint-Étienne, who both remain in Ligue 2.
Coming up instead were Le Havre and Metz, with Ligue 1 contracting down to 18 teams this season, after 20-years as a 20-team division.
This’ll make the bottom of the table even more competitive, which is bad news for clubs like Nantes, who were almost relegated in May, three months after drawing with Juventus in the Europa League knockouts.
If any historic giant is likely to drop out the division, it’s most likely to be Nantes, although who knows what to expect from Nice under Francesco Farioli, following an underwhelming ninth-place finish from les Aiglons.