After a long hiatus, Ligue 1 will return in just over a week with PSG slated to start their 2020-21 campaign with a home fixture against FC Metz (the match may be postponed depending on the Champions League progression). After that, it’s a trip to Lens on 29th August, followed by a home tie against Marseille after the international football break in mid-September.
Let’s face it, though: If you bet on football, one of the surest things around at the moment is that PSG will be crowned champions at the end of the season. The odds are so short that you would be better off putting your money into a bank account for the duration of the season and earning a few points off the interest. PSG will be once again focused on the Champions League. We say this objectively: Thomas Tuchel’s men will not need to get out of third gear to win an eighth title in nine years.
But who will mount the sternest challenge and, at the least, grab themselves a place in the Champions League? Below, with the utmost respect to the teams, we look at Ligue 1’s also-rans for the new season:
Olympique de Marseille
Was the 4-0 walloping handed out by PSG last October a turning point for Marseille? After that result against their bitter rivals, Marseille went on a tear losing just one game in the subsequent 17 fixtures and rocketing into second place. The goal for Andre Villas-Boas will be to sustain that position as France’s second-best team, knowing that regular Champions League football and the cash flow it brings might open the pathway to start challenging PSG at home.
Would Lyon have finished higher than 7th had the season not been cut short? It’s difficult to say, but the overachievers in the 2019-20 Champions League certainly underachieved in the domestic campaign. Memphis Depay has been linked with a move to Arsenal, and you’d think that keeping their captain should be a priority. A couple of astute signings might be enough to challenge for second place, but Lyon would also do well to trim the fat from a very bloated squad.
At times, Lille look in danger of becoming a feeder club for Europe’s elite, but they have an uncanny knack of renewing and rejuvenating the team with clever signings. The latest Lille player who has been linked with the big clubs, including PSG, is Brazilian defender Gabriel Magalhaes. If he leaves, Lille can expect some decent money for him. However, Lille have also spent big this summer, splashing out €30 million on Canadian striker Jonathan David. That’s a testament to the ambition of the club, and it’s the biggest transfer fee in French club history for any club outside of PSG and Monaco. Lille might just be the most interesting team to keep an eye on in the coming years in French football.
AS Monaco have an inviting run of fixtures – Stade de Reims, FC Metz, FC Nantes, Stade Rennais, Strasbourg and Stade Brestois – to get the season underway, and they’ll need a much better start than last season which never seemed to get going. Niko Kovac takes the helm at a team that will have much loftier ambitions than last season’s 9th place finish. Can Kovac deliver? He really needs time on this project. We mentioned Lyon’s bloated squad earlier, but it looks positively trim in comparison to Monaco’s. There’s a huge number of journeyman players eating up the wage budget, and Kovacs should be given the mandate to transform Monaco. Still, they might surprise some with a push towards the Top 4 spots.
Last, but certainly not least, the surprise package of the 2019-20 season, Rennes. Like Marseille and PSG, Rennes will take their place in the Champions League Group Stage, and boss Julien Stephan will be hoping that the distraction of European football won’t thwart Renne’s domestic progress as it so often does to smaller teams. Martin Terrier looks to be a decent signing from Lyon, and we have liked the look of the squad in the preseason. Another good season awaits, but can they match that 3rd place finish?
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