After two months of respite, Ligue 1 will resume its rights. It is Olympique Lyonnais who opens the ball, Friday July 5, by receiving the promoted Ajaccio at Groupama Stadium. Even if Paris Saint-Germain has a good chance of finishing at the top of the rankings once again, several contenders have expanded their squad in the off-season in order to disrupt the Parisian hegemony.
The fight will also take place at the bottom of the table, since four teams will be exceptionally relegated at the end of the season. To see more clearly, franceinfo: sport offers you insight into the forces present.
Favorite: Paris Saint-Germain
Unsurprisingly, PSG remain the big favorite to succeed themselves. Especially since the Parisians have strengthened in all areas of play by recording the arrival of three recruits (Mukiele in defense, Vitinha in the middle and Ekitike in attack). This Paris should be very difficult to beat. “Everyone is focused on the Champions League but first we have to do everything we can to win the three national trophies.” announced Christophe Galtier, his new coach. The Parisian harvest has already begun, Saturday July 30, against FC Nantes, with the victory (4-0) in the Champions Trophy in Tel Aviv.
However, this favorite status does not prevent the Parisian club from erasing all questions. Paris, champion with 15 points ahead of its runner-up Marseille, will evolve under the orders of Christophe Galtier, who has everything to prove in a club of this stature.
The other uncertainty will be the level of play displayed by Lionel Messi. Last year, the brilliant Argentinian had scored only six league goals and delivered 14 assists, far from his usual standards. The question of the offensive performance of the left-hander (35), associated with Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, will be one of the great concerns of the former Stéphanois coach.
The outsiders: Marseille, Monaco, Rennes and Nice
Behind, they will be several to fight for second place in the standings, synonymous with direct qualification in the Champions League. Marseille and Monaco remain the two teams best equipped to achieve this. The Marseille club, which released the international Boubacar Kamara to Aston Villa and its emblematic goalkeeper, Steve Mandanda (in Rennes), was active during this transfer window by enlisting several quality recruits (Samuel Gigot, Jonathan Clauss, Luis Suarez, Chancel Mbemba). A new coach is also in charge of the Olympians, after the sensational departure of Jorge Sampaoli: the rigid Croatian Igor Tudor who finished ninth in Serie A with Hellas Verona. The Marseillais, engaged in the Champions League, will have to face the frantic pace of the matches.
For its part, the Rock club, engaged in a real obstacle course in August to qualify for the European Cup, has strengthened offensively in the off-season. Already equipped with Wissam Ben Yedder, second top scorer in Ligue 1 last season, and Kevin Volland, Monaco’s attack recorded the arrival of Takumi Minamino (Liverpool) and Breel Embolo (Borussia Mönchengladbach). Two assets to be compared with the departure of the French international midfielder Aurélien Tchouaméni to Real Madrid.
In seven preparatory games, they have only won two against minor clubs: Cercle Brugge (1-0) and Portuguese club Portimonense (2-0). The draw (1-1) against PSV Eindhoven in the third preliminary round of the Champions League continued the movement. Philippe Clement, the coach, has no time to lose: in addition to qualifying for the play-off, ASM will successively play Strasbourg, Rennes, Lens, Paris, Nice then Lyon during the first seven days of L1.
In ambush behind these two large stables are Rennes and Nice. Stade Rennais (second best attack last season) carried out intelligent recruitment (Arthur Theate and Steve Mandanda in particular) by filling the two biggest weaknesses of its workforce: the goalkeeper position and the orphan defense of Nayef Aguerd, who left for West Ham. The Niçois also have their card to play this season. With the return of Lucien Favre, the Swiss coach who took OGC to third place in 2017, and the arrival of several recruits, including experienced internationals Aaron Ramsey and Kasper Schmeichel, Nice (2nd best defense) is full of arguments to claim a place on the podium.
Questions: Lyon and Lille
After their league title, Losc had a much more delicate 2021-2022 exercise. Inconstant, the Lille residents finished in the soft stomach, in an anonymous 10th place. But they start on a new cycle, with the arrival of Paulo Fonseca and his offensive ideas on the bench. The Mastiffs have also recruited recruits well known to Ligue 1 fans: Mohamed Bayo, Jonas Martin, and Rémy Cabella. With the objective of finding a certain continuity, and the top of the table.
Lyon, which remains in a disappointing 8th place, is the other big question before the start of the season. The club had a turbulent summer behind the scenes, with the arrival of John Textor as a new shareholder, and in terms of the transfer window, the return of former Alexandre Lacazette and Corentin Tolisso. With a lighter calendar without the European Cup, the Lyonnais, who are banking on experience and youth, will be able to focus mainly on the championship, and the objective of the top 3.
The bottom of the table: four relegated at the end of the season
The fight for maintenance promises to be particularly difficult this season. Unlike the three traditional relegations, four teams will be sent to Ligue 2 at the end of the season, to allow the transition to 18 formations during the 2023-2024 financial year. A first since the 2000-2001 season. The places among the first sixteen in the classification will therefore be hotly contested.
The challenge for the three promoted (Toulouse, Ajaccio and Auxerre) is all the greater. To succeed in maintaining itself, AC Ajaccio can count on its solid defense, AJ Auxerre on the resolutely offensive game and Toulouse on its solid collective led by the right foot of the Dutchman Branco van den Boomen, voted best player in Ligue 2. last season.