Thursday, 8 August 2019

Preview: Ligue 1 2019/20 Season

The 2019/20 Ligue 1 season is on the horizon with the twenty teams gearing up for another competitive campaign. PSG continue to be strides above the rest but complacency kicked in a few seasons ago when Monaco stole the title from them, so could we see another sting this season? Ligue 1 promises to have plenty of battle lines being drawn with Champions League football as well as the avoiding relegation being at the forefront of many teams' minds ahead of the big kick-off.

PSG continue to be strides above the rest and dominated once again last season as Thomas Tuchel secured the title in his first season at the club. However, PSG disappointed in all the cup competitions last season including the Champions League and Tuchel will demand improvement heading into the new season. Pablo Sarabia, Ander Herrera and Idrissa Gueye have arrived to boost an already strong midfield and Abdou Diallo has arrived from Borussia Dortmund to boost their defensive options. However, Neymar's future is in doubt following his decision to tell the Parisian club that he wants to leave. PSG are seemingly open to selling him but want a good chunk of the 200M they paid for him. PSG have handled themselves excellently through this saga with Tuchel seemingly focused on the players that want to be at the club. Tuchel will push on all fronts in his second season in charge with the league and Champions League high on the agenda once again.

Can someone stop PSG this season? While its unlikely anyone will stop them, there are a few contenders behind them. Last seasons' runners up Lille had a tremendous season, defying all expectations to somehow secure Champions League football a year on from their narrow escape from relegation. Christophe Galtier has overseen a sensational transformation but his squad has been ripped apart by larger clubs and Lille's desperation to comply with Financial Fair Play. Key players Tiago Mendes, Rafael Leao, Youssouf Kone and Nicolas Pepe have all departed the club this summer for a combined fee of £126M. A huge loss of players at the club and more could follow with interest in other outstanding performers. Its a case of starting again for Christophe Galtier as he prepares for a Champions League campaign. It is also a summer of change for last seasons' 3rd place team Lyon. Bruno Genesio has departed at the end of his contract with Sylvinho coming in to replace him. The Brazilian had a fantastic playing career and he will be hoping his management career goes the same way. But like Lille, Lyon have lost key players in this window. Tanguy Ndombele, Ferland Mendy and Nabil Fekir have all waved au revoir this summer for a combined total of £128M. Sylvinho has been active in this summer moulding a squad in his eyes. He has pouched Tiago Mendes and Youssouf Kone from Lille as well as adding highly-regarded midfielder Jean Lucas from Flamengo. But his big signing has been so far has been Sampdoria defender Joachim Andersen. Seen as one of the bright prospects in Europe, Andersen arrives to add more defensive options for Sylvinho ahead of the new season.

Two sides who flattered to deceive last season were Marseille and Monaco. So much was promised at Marseille last season but the club comfortably missed out on securing Champions League football and consequently dismissed Rudi Garcia. A season of poor performances, fan unrest and poor ownership ultimately culminated into a disastrous season. But the summer has brought some optimism with former Chelsea and Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas arriving as their new manager. He is tasked with simply getting Marseille back at Europe's top table. Meanwhile, across the sea, Monaco's season was just as bad if not worse than Marseille's previous campaign. The Principality club had a disastrous season on the pitch finishing in 17th place in Ligue 1 and flirted with relegation for the whole season. Leonardo Jardim started last season, ended up being sacked but came back in January to rescue the club after Thierry Henry's horrendous spell in charge. Jardim steered them to safety but he will be well aware that Monaco must improve this season and have added a few players in the window. Benjamin Lecomte and Ruben Aguilar have arrived from Montpellier while Gelson Martins have made a permanent move to the club after a good loan spell in the second half of last season. Monaco are looking for a stronger campaign this time around and will be hoping to challenge for the Champions League places once again.

The summer allows clubs to make changes and some Ligue 1 clubs have decided a change was needed at the top. Despite an excellent season, Jean-Louis Gasset left St Etienne following the conclusion of his contract at the club. His replacement is his assistant Ghislain Printant who will be tasked with going one better this season by securing a place in the Champions League. Amiens have also changed their manager following Christophe Pellissier's departure. Pellissier has left to take the reigns at second-tier Lorient and has been replaced by Luka Elsner. Elsner arrives following a spell at Belgian club Union Saint-Gilloise and he will be tasked with securing safety in Ligue 1. Amiens have made a host of signings this summer as Elsner looks to stamp his authority at the club. Survival the aim at Amiens this season but ambition has been hugely questioned at Nantes which consequently saw Vahid Halilhodzic resign as their manager. The constant fueding at the top of the club, the lack of ambition and the tragic death of Emiliano Sala have proved too much for the Bosnian. Nantes have yet to name his replacement following his sudden departure but have placed Patrick Collot in caretaker charge. Christian Gourcuff is expected to take over at Nantes after their opening league game. Last season's play-off winners Dijon also have a new man at the helm following Antoine Kombouare's resignation and that man is Stephane Jobard who is tasked with improving on last season's 18th place finish. The final side to change manager over the summer is newly promoted Brest with promotion-winning manager Jean-Michael Furlan leaving at the end of his contract. Furlan departs on a high and new manager Olivier Dall'oglio has big shoes to fill. The latter spent six seasons at Dijon before being sacked last season. He will be tasked with ensuring Brest survive in their first season back in Ligue 1.

Joining Brest back in Ligue 1 this season is Metz following their title success in May. The club had an excellent season in Ligue 1 and bounced back at the first attempt. Metz have kept the core that got them promoted and they will be looking forward to the season ahead. As will Europa League challengers St Etienne, Rennes and Strasbourg. St Etienne secured automatic qualification following their 4th place finish last season, Rennes also have automatic qualification following their French Cup success. Strasbourg will have to do it through the qualifying rounds but what a sensational two years it has been for the club. Promoted for the first time in 2017 and they haven't looked back. Thierry Laurey has done a wonderful job and will be hoping their ride on the crest of a wave continues in the new season with a European adventure.

The new Ligue 1 season promises to bring quality goals, excellent football and surprises but can anyone stop PSG's dominance of French football? The challengers will try but it is a huge challenge to take the crown off the kings.

My Predictions:
Champions: PSG
Champions League places: Lyon, Monaco
Europa League places: Marseille, St Etienne
Relegation: Dijon, Brest
Relegation Play-off Place: Amiens

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