A mouthwatering Europa League final awaits, writes Andy Brassell, as France's Ligue 1 resumes without the two teams who could do most to shape the coming season...
"The Andalucians have already clinched Champions League football despite a huge turnover of players - nine of the starters against Manchester United were new signings this season."
Close Europa League final awaits
Rarely can a winner of a second semi-final have posted such a clear mission statement as Inter did, in pulverising Shakhtar Donetsk to reach the Europa League final. With Lautaro Martínez and Romelu Lukaku clicking together perfectly for the first time in a few months, Antonio Conte's side looked like a formidable nut for anyone to crack and accordingly, go into Friday's final as favourites to lift the trophy at [1.7].
With that said, Inter were by no means perfect. Their football does sometimes leave the viewer unsated - with that magic front two making the difference - and they were simply ruthless with a below-par Shakhtar. While the highlights make a great calling card, Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui could have watched on and remained confident for his side's prospects, for which they can be backed at [2.44] to win the Europa League.
Lopetegui has, after all, done a superb job this season. The Andalucians have already clinched Champions League football despite a huge turnover of players (nine of the starters against Manchester United were new signings this season), and they have the defensive mettle to hang on in games, as they showed against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team. Add in a current 20-game unbeaten run and you can understand why Lukaku said post-game that Sevilla should be favourites.
Back Sevilla to beat Inter at [3.65] in the Match Odds (90 minutes only)
Will PSG and Lyon dominate L1 once they get started?
Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon were the toast of the first week of Champions League Final 8 action in Lisbon, making sure of France having double representation in the last four for the first time in the competition's history. Their extended respective sojourns in the Portuguese capital means neither will be taking part in the upcoming opening weekend of Ligue 1, regardless of their semi-final results.
The champions, when they do begin away at Lens on Saturday week, will clearly be heavy favourites once again. The amount of business they do before the transfer deadline in October will be interesting to see. Even with Mauro Icardi now signed permanently (and despite the handy cameo of Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting against Atalanta), they need an extra striker and reinforcements in the full-back positions at least.
Lyon's role in the coming domestic season will be fascinating. They have been truly galvanised by their Champions League experiences, and their excellent young midfield of Bruno Guimarães, Maxence Caqueret and Houssem Aouar (if the latter stays) could take them a long way. Barring ultimate victory in this Champions League Rudi Garcia's side will miss European competition for the first time in over two decades, which could give them a physical advantage with a talented squad. Their odds make them an interesting bet for Ligue 1, with the option of cashing out should they go well.
Lille and Rennes renew their rivalry
When Ligue 1's sudden halt in March turned into a permanent parking in late April, it looked like a string of legal wrangles could be on the cards. In the end the aftermath has been fairly calm, though a few resentments continue to fester, no least between the two clubs who were jostling for third place when the unexpected end came.
Lille, having just completed a Champions League campaign, fancied their chances of making it two in a row but were left a point adrift of Rennes by the league's truncation. The confirmation of the Europa League semi-final line-up also confirmed that the Brittany club would go directly into the group stage, rubbing salt in Lille's wounds - and surprise surprise, the pair meet in the standout fixture of the opening weekend.
Christophe Galtier's team are again reshaping their front line, with Victor Osimhen having joined Napoli in a big-money move and although the prolific Jonathan David and born goalscorer Burak Yilmaz have arrived, the adjustment will take time. Rennes have held onto their key men, including Mbaye Niang, and have added the rapid Martin Terrier to the mix, which makes this column think they are priced a little too long to take all three points in the north and get their campaign off to a flier.
Back Rennes to win at Lille at [3.55]