Friday 21 August, 6.00pm
|Paris Saint Germain|
Lille, Lyon, Marseille and Monaco: behind champions-elect PSG, there will be thrills and excitement aplenty in the new French season which kicks-off this weekend, writes James Eastham...
"Lyon, seventh last season, should climb the table as long as they hold on to their better players. On their day they're as good as any side in the country bar PSG and their run to the Champions League last four has already gone a long way towards banishing memories of 2019-20's significant underachievement."
The 2020-21 Ligue 1 season starts this weekend and PSG are 1.051/20 to claim their eighth title in nine seasons. While the outcome of the main prize seems a foregone conclusion, there's still plenty else going on in France to attract the interest of the serious and casual bettor.
As many as 10 teams could contest the race for the European places and the relegation battle promises to be just as close. Promoted Lorient are among the division's biggest spenders and will be one of the teams to watch.
Here's our guide to the main talking points on a team-by-team basis, hinting at how the pecking order might change over the months ahead.
The big spenders
Nice finished fifth last season and are well-equipped to improve on that final position after embarking on the most ambitious summer recruitment policy in France. No fewer than six players - Jordan Lotomba (Young Boys), Robson Bambu (Athletico Paranaense), Hassane Kamara (Reims), Morgan Schneiderlin (Everton), Rony Lopes (Sevilla) and Amine Gouiri (Lyon) - with the potential to go straight into the Starting XI has signed over the summer and the ambition for Patrick Vieira (pictured below) and his players will be to claim a top-three spot.
Lorient are back in the top flight after three seasons away and have no intention of returning to Ligue 2 any time soon. They've signed a host of players, and chief among them is Adrian Grbic, a £9 million arrival from Ligue 2 Clermont, where he was 17-goal top scorer last season.
A quick, powerful goalscorer, Grbic is a direct free-kick taker with a style reminiscent of Cristiano Ronaldo and has the potential to be a star in the French top flight this season. Look out also for Stephane Diarra, a quicksilver winger signed from Le Mans for £3 million.
The podium contenders
Alongside Nice a glut of familiar names are likely to fight it out for second and third places behind PSG: Lille, Lyon, Marseille and Monaco are the main contenders, and it would be a major shock to see anybody other than these four or Nice end up in the podium positions.
Marseille were runners-up last season but will struggle to do as well this time. Financial restrictions have limited l'OM's scope to strengthen their squad and the demands of Champions League football are likely to have a negative impact on the side's domestic results.
Lyon (7th last season) should climb the table as long as they hold on to their better players. On their day they're as good as any side in the country bar PSG and their run to the Champions League last four has already gone a long way towards banishing memories of 2019-20's underachievement.
Lille (4th last season) ought to be as strong as last season despite losing top scorer Victor Osimhen to Napoli (£63 million). Jonathan David (£27 million) is the perfect replacement and the 20-year-old Canada international looks ready to thrive in France having done so well in Belgium at Gent over the past couple of seasons. Renato Sanches was excellent for Lille during the second-half of last season and should be an even greater influence having now found his feet in France.
Monaco (9th last season) are an intriguing proposition after a summer of upheaval. Red Bull Leipzig sporting director Paul Mitchell has left Germany to take up the same post at Monaco and moved swiftly to appoint former Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac after sacking former Spain manager Roberto Moreno. Mitchell and Kovac have plenty of work on their hands to trim Monaco's oversized squad but there's a potentially brilliant Starting XI lurking among the 40 or so pros on Monaco's books. Having failed to qualify for European competition the Principality outfit are free to concentrate on domestic matters and ought to finish much higher this term.
The relegation candidates
The primary objective for half-a-dozen teams will be to stay in the top flight. The clubs that this applies to are Angers, Brest, Dijon, Lens, Metz and Nimes, all of whom would be content to finish above the bottom three.
Metz (15th last season) look set to lose last season's 12-goal top scorer Habib Diallo before the transfer window closes and the departure of the Senegal international could deal their hopes of survival a fatal blow. The lack of a reliable goalscorer is also a major issue for Dijon (16th last season), while top-flight returnees Lens have thus far failed to make the post-promotion signings fans were hoping for. Unless Lens strengthen in the weeks ahead, they will struggle.
You can now bet without leaving Betting.Betfair with our brand new on-site betslip for Exchange markets. You'll see the Exchange back and lay prices at the end of articles - simply login and place your bets as you would do on the main Exchange site
Friday 21 August, 6.00pm
|Paris Saint Germain|