French Ligue 1 Season Preview
>The new French Ligue 1 campaign begins later today, so here’s Sports Pundit’s season preview as Marseille defend their title and the likes of Lyon, Bordeaux, PSG and Monaco try to re-claim the crown.
Last Season; Champions’‘Topscorer; Mamadou Niang (18)'’Most assists; Lucho Gonzalez (12)
It’s hard to know what to make of French champions Marseille. OM boss Didier Deschamps knows they must bolster their squad to defend their title, but a lack of funds has prevented much transfer activity.
Marseille have moved on Bakari Kone and Laurent Bonnart, while Spanish right-back César Azpilicueta is the only major arrival. Rumours have linked star striker Mamadou Niang with a switch to Fenerbahce, while Hatem Ben Arfa’s future isn’t clear. A lot depends on these moves, which could trigger a switch for Toulouse’s France international striker Andre-Pierre Gignac.
Ins’‘César Azpilicueta (Osasuna)'’Outs’‘Bakari Kone (Lekhwiya), Laurent Bonnart (released), Fernando Morientes (released), Cyril Rool (released)'’Sports Pundit prediction; 4th
Last Season; 2nd’‘Topscorer; Lisandro Lopez (15)'’Most assists; Miralem Pjanic (9)
Lyon boss Claude Puel continues to restore the former glories of the team who dominated French football for the most part of this decade. In doing so he’s moved on the likes of Sidney Govou and Jean-Alain Boumsong, in favour of the new breed including Miralem Pjanic, Hugo Lloris, Aly Cissokho and new signing Jimmy Briand.
Having reached last season’s Champions League semi-finals, it’s clear Lyon are capable of plenty and with few major departures in the off-season, they should build on last term and challenge for the title.
Ins’‘Jimmy Briand (Rennes)'’Outs’‘Sidney Govou (Panathinaikos), Jean-Alain Boumsong (Panathinaikos), Mathieu Bodmer (PSG), Francois Clerc (released)'’Sports Pundit prediction; champions
Last Season; 3rd’‘Topscorer; Ireneusz Jeleń (14)'’Most assists; Daniel Niculae (9)
Auxerre boss Jean Fernandez has created a strong and resolute defensive unit which was breached only 29 times in Ligue 1 last term. Stephane Grichting, Adama Coulibaly and Cedric Hengbart are keys to their success and all remain in Burgundy this season, but with the addition commitments of European football, Auxerre may be stretched.
Romanian Daniel Niculae has departed, but they still possess enough goal threat with Ireneusz Jelen and Valter Birsa. You fancy, though, the Ligue 1 title will be too big an ask for this squad.
Ins’‘Soumahoro Johnson (Amiens), Anthony Le Tallec (Le Mans)'’Outs’‘Daniel Niculae (Monaco), Moussa Nary (Le Mans), Damian Dufour (Chateauroux), Kevin Lejeune (Tours)'’Sports Pundit prediction; 6th
Last Season; 4th’‘Topscorer; Pierre-Alain Frau, Gervinho, Yohan Cabaye (13)'’Most assists; Eden Hazard, Yohan Cabaye (8)
Rudi Garcia’s Lille were Ligue 1 topscorers last season with their variety of attacking options causing plenty of defences problems. They’ve bolstered in attack too, with the arrival of Senegalese international Moussa Sow.
The best news, though, is Lille have retained talents such as Yohan Cabaye, Gervinho and Eden Hazard, who all were part of the side which narrowly missed out on a Champions League spot last term.
Ins’‘Moussa Sow (Rennes)'’Outs’‘Robert Vittek (Ankaragucu – Permanent), Ricardo Costa (Valencia), Ludovic Butelle (Nimes – Loan), Nicolas Fauvergue (Sedan – Loan), Jim Said (Valenciennes), Omar Benzerga (Nantes)'’Sports Pundit prediction; 3rd
Last Season; 6th’‘Topscorer; Wendel (11)'’Most assists; Yoann Gourcuff, Benoit Tremoulinas (7)
It’s a new dawn in Bordeaux as the 2008/09 Ligue 1 champions attempt to put behind a poor title defence and rise back up to the top of French football. But they’ll have to do it without boss Laurent Blanc who has taken over the national team, so Jean Tigana is the new man at the helm.
Marouane Chamakh has departed too, leaving Fernando Cavenaghi with more duties up front. A bad run of form cost Girondins last term, but minus the distraction of Europe and with a settled side, they should be more than capable of mounting a challenge for the title.
Ins’‘Vujadin Savic (Red Star Belgrade)'’Outs’‘Marouane Chamakh (Arsenal), Diego Placente (San Lorenzo), Wilfried Moimbe (Tours), Grzegorz Krychowiak (Reims – Loan)'’Sports Pundit prediction; 2nd
Last Season; 8th’‘Topscorer; Nene (14)'’Most assists; Alejandro Alonso (6)
It’s been all change in the principality in the off-season, with boss Guy Lacombe desperate to deliver great things for Monaco. There’s been some big arrivals such as DR Congo striker Dieumerci Mbokani, but the departure of Brazilian wizz Nene and Colombian winger Juan Pablo Pino leaves significant quality to replace.
There’s been hype Monaco could be capable of pushing for the top three this term and if the likes of Lukman Haruna and Park Chu-Young come on as hoped Monaco will make major improvements. They’ve got a nice blend of youth and experience, but may lack flair and creativity in attack.
Ins’‘Dieumerci Mbokani (Standard Liege), Petter Hansson (Rennes), Sebastien Puygrenier (Zenit St Petersburg – Loan), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (AC Milan – Loan), Daniel Niculae (AJ Auxerre), Sebastien Chabbert (Charleroi)'’Outs’‘Nene (PSG), Juan Pablo Pino (Galatasaray), Francois Modesto (Olympiacos), Moussa Maazou (CSKA Moscow – Loan Return), Yohan Mollo (Caen – Loan), Dario Simic (Dinamo Zagreb), Jerko Leko (Bucaspor), Kevin Diaz (Metz – Loan), Massamba Sambou (Atromitos), Patrick Mueller (released)'’Sports Pundit prediction; 5th
Last Season; 13th’‘Topscorer; Mevlut Erdinc (15)'’Most assists; Christoph Jallet (8)
PSG star Claude Makelele will play on again this season but has declared it his final year. He’s hoping the team can finally get it together and deliver.
Les Parisiens coach Antoine Kombouare has added some genuine quality in midfield with Brazilian winger Nene arriving. But PSG’s downfall could be the same old problems and more is required from their older players such as Ludovic Giuly and Pegguy Luyindula.
Ins’‘Nene (Monaco), Mathieu Bodmer (Olympique Lyon)'’Outs’‘Grandi Ngoyi (Brest – Loan), Willy Grondin (released), Alexandre Letellier (Angers)'’Sports Pundit prediction; 10th
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