With less than a week to the start of 2019/20 Ligue 1 season, the bookmakers have Paris Saint-Germain as the overwhelming favorites to dominate French football once again. But with plenty of uncertainty in the French capital surrounding Brazilian superstar Neymar, his purported exit could blow this season title challenge wide open.
Ligue 1 football has often been put in the shadows by other European football leagues, however, it is still fiercely competitive and gives you the chance to see modern-day stars like Kylian Mbappe, Angel Di Maria, Marco Verratti in action.
Will Paris Saint Germain make it three league titles on the spin or can Lyon do the unthinkable and claim the Ligue 1 title for the first time in over ten years? Here is our French Ligue 1 preview for the 2019-20 season. It could be the biggest and most unpredictable season of French football yet.
PSG retained the French league title under new coach Thomas Tuchel comfortably with a 16 point gap between them and the closest challenger but that was the minimum expectation considering the quality possessed by the capital club. Les Rouge-et-Bleu should pick up another Ligue 1 title without too many problems if football were played on paper. PSG have been able to resolve of one the several controversies that plagued them last season by replacing the club’s sporting director Antero Henrique with Leonardo. Moving to the pitch, all eyes will be on Kylian Mbappe to see if he can become the team’s new leader and continue epic goal scoring run from last season. The supporting cast of Edinson Cavani, Angel Di Maria and Julian Draxler are still in the ranks, with Pablo Sarabia arriving to provide a different dimension in attack. Superstar Neymar is still on PSG books, he is currently recuperating from injury but his future is yet to be sorted and that could affect the dressing room if a definite resolution isn’t reached. The former Barcelona star has been a success in Paris when fit, scoring 34 league goals in 37 appearances. Unfortunately, the world record signing has his heart on returning to his former club in Catalonia. How PSG manage Neymar situation and future could impact on their season. Without a doubt, PSG are the favorites to win the league title and other domestic crowns but progressing deep in the Champions League is likely the focus for the campaign.
Can Lyon take advantage of the uncertainty surrounding PSG this season with Lyon setting a new course under new manager Sylvinho. Les Gones have to improve on their third place finish of last season but the task of doing that will not be easy with key players like Ferland Mendy, Tanguy Ndombele and ex-captain Nabil Fekir sold to Real Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur and Real Betis respectively. With money from these sales, Lyon have purchased Joachim Andersen from Sampdoria, Thiago Mendes and Youssouf Kone from LOSC Lille. With Fekir out, Depay has to take the leadership position in attack while Bertrand Traoré and Moussa Dembélé need to improve on last season return of 22 Ligue1 goals from the talented duo. Lyon finished 19 points behind the champions, scored 35 league goals less and conceded 12 more. This is the challenge for Sylvinho who is taking his first managerial job having served as assistant manager at Inter Milan and the Brazil National Team.
Marseille is the French club with longest spell in Ligue 1 spending 70 seasons in the top flight. Les Phocéens are one of France’s most fiercely supported team but the long suffering fans have only memories of past to savor. It’s been ten years since Marseille picked up their last Ligue 1 title but under new head coach, Andre Villas-Boas, there is hope they can do better than last season’s fifth place finish. The brilliant 41 year-old Portuguese has won at least seven major honors including league titles in Portugal and Russia on his impressive resume. However, Marseille relatively quiet transfer activities could hinder him with no marquee signing coming through yet. The club has had to promote players from the B-team; Amadou Dia, Lucas Perrin, Alexandre Philiponeau and Marley Ake have joined the first team while Lucas Ocampos and Clinton N’jie have been sold abroad in addition to Mario Balotelli leaving. Regardless of the quiet transfer activities, the weight of expectation will still be the same from the ever demanding fans at the Orange Velodrome. In the preseason matches, we have seen Villas-Boas trying to implement a 4-3-3 system but the absence of several important players to injuries has seen the team struggle. It is still early days to make a final verdict but it looks like it could be another uphill struggle for this legendary French club if major investments are not made.
Les Dogues were one of the surprise packages of last season. Under the leadership of Christophe Galtier, Lille emerged as a well-rounded side. Their success has seen bigger European clubs raid Lille and lure several players away but the club has raked in €150m in players’ sale with Gatlier having to embark on a new rebuilding process. If the club can retain the services of Jonathan Ikone and Jonathan Bamba, Gatlier can build his new Lille with these two as the mainstay. LOSC fans should be excited about these new arrivals – Timothy Weah, Victor Osimhen, Domagoj Bradaric are some talented youngsters that will be strutting their stuff at Stade Pierre-Mauroy. With Champions League adventure on the cards, it is anybody’s guess where Lille would finish this campaign.
AS Monaco escaped relegation narrowly by finishing 17th in the 2018-19 season. A far cry from the team that hoisted the league trophy just two seasons ago, and certainly not what fans of the Monegasque side expected. A mid-season shakeup that consumed both club manager Thierry Henry and Vice President Vadim Vasilyev saw them leave the club and the returned of former manager Leonardo Jardim in the dugout while Oleg Petrov took over in the board room to oversee the second half of a forgettable campaign. Gelson Martins impressive loan move has been converted into a permanent transfer and the expectation is for him to replicate the form he showcased between January and May. The future of club captain and striker Radamel Falcao is up in the air while Belgian midfielder Youri Tielemans has moved on to Leicester City on a permanent deal. Under Jardim, Monaco were steady and competitive in four years whilst selling star players every summer until it caught up with them. The Portuguese manager is key for Monaco’s new project this summer; they cannot be considered as title challengers but you can never write them off completely.
Saint Etienne enjoyed a solid campaign last season finishing fourth; they start this new campaign under Ghislain Printant who served as assistant to outgone manager Jean-Louis Gasset. Ryad Boudebouz is the biggest name to arrive Stade Geoffroy-Guichard from Real Betis and Les Verts have managed to keep William Saliba on loan for the new season after selling him to Arsenal. The expectation would be continuity from Gasset’s impressive work, Printant worked with him for two and half years. Montpellier have established themselves as a mid-table side in the French top division since winning the title in 2012. Michel Der Zakarian’s team finished sixth last season, spent €16m on three major arrivals – Téji Savanier, Andy Delort and Jordan Ferri. Benjamin Lecomte’s departure to Monaco is a huge loss, only four teams conceded less than Montpellier with French goaltender keeping 11 clean sheets in 37 Ligue 1 games. Stade Reims and Nimes Olympique were amongst the overachievers last season. The new boys in top flight impressed finishing eighth and ninth respectively while Dijon FCO managed to stay alive by winning the play-off battle against RC Lens.
FC Metz won promotion back to Ligue 1 at the first time of asking by finishing first in Ligue 2 and this yoyo club would hope for a better campaign back in the top flight. Vincent Hognon has spent €10m on new arrivals with the bulk of it on defensive midfield man – Victorien Angban from Chelsea. After six years in the second division, Stade Brestois 29 are back in the top division to compete with the crème de la crème of French football. 55 year-old Olivier Dall’Oglio, Brest manager is having to wheel and deal for players. Romain Perraud and Ibrahima Diallo have arrived for a combined €4m with other free transfers and loan signings. SB29 need more quality if they are to survive beyond this season in Ligue 1.
The 2019-20 Ligue 1 Conforama season promises loads of excitement and surprises. We shall be previewing matches from this league as part of our FESIG focus weekly. The entire season odds are available on our sports shop. Simply visit Babaijebu.ng and place your bet for all French league games.