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Ligue 1 season preview
Pre seasons are drawing to a close, new signings are being readied and fans of the French first division are in eager anticipation as to what Ligue 1 will bring this season, will Paris Saint Germain conquer all again? Will Monaco collapse after losing Falcao and James this summer? Or will Juninho's young Lyon side challenge for the crown?
The title challengers
Paris Saint Germain
Of course the most obvious of title front runners are the champions PSG, they have the best squad by far in terms off world class players. They have Ibra, Edi Cavani, Thiago Silva all world class players, not to mention Marquinhos, Javier Pastore, Blase Matuidi all of which are good quality players. This season see's former France international Laurent Blanc take the reins for a second successive season, although there is a feeling that the squad is aging and no longer at its best, if the going gets tough will Blanc be able to handle the pressure?
Obviously there isn't really a contest for PSG’s key player it has to of course be Ibra, the Swedish powerhouse scores their goals, inspires the team and is adored by the fans he is the talisman of PSG but he will be thirty three years of age soon are his best years behind him?
At thirty two is Ibra past his best?
When Dmitry Rybolovlev took over ownership of Monaco in 2011 he promised to spend millions in order to turn Monaco back into the European super club they once were. Three years later half of that promise has been fulfilled. Monaco have spent and spent and spent but they still lack stability and a real togetherness about them. And now James and Falcao have left (James to UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE holders Real Madrid whilst his compatriot will spend at least a season on loan in Manchester for big spending Manchester United) this season will be a real test of character for last season's runner's up in the league, couple the loss of those two with UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE football for the first time since 2006 where they were knocked out of the tournament in the third qualifying round by Spaniards Real Betis who are now playing in Spain's second tier after finishing at the foot of La Liga last season. Monaco do however have many promising youngsters in their ranks, will the right manager come along to utilise them or will they be cast off into the lower leagues like so many brilliant youth players are nowadays, will Monaco's small squad crumble under the pressure or will they rally to produce a suprise league title win That question will be answered later on in the campaign.
On the surface the key player for Monaco is a straight fight between Jeremy Toulalan and Joao Moutinho, but perhaps the key to Monaco's season lies on their (or more lack of it) it to score goals they still haven't been able to find a replacement striker for Radamel Falcao and with time running out until the transfer window deadline will they have a new frontman? They have been experimenting by playing twenty two year old Belgian Yannick Carrasco in the centre forward postion Dimitar Berbatov and Lacina Traore are willing and able to fire the goals that Monaco need to get them up the table but will Monaco's supposed concentration on youth mean that they give the chance to carrasco? If what the owners say is anything to go by then it seems that Carrasco playing as striker is anything but a pipe dream.
Can Carrasco cut it at centre forward?
After a somewhat disappointing fifth place finish last season OL decided to part company with manager Hubert Fournier and hired set piece legend Juninho to take charge of a side not lacking in potential. It remains to be seen how well Juninho will do as Lyon manager but he has promised to use the young players, a promise which he has so far kept, they are tipped to be the team that the national team calls upon for players most. Going forward they are possibly one of the best teams in the world but not unlike Manchester United when defending especially on the counter attack tend to crumble. Over Pre season numerous question marks have been asked about goalkeeper Anthony Lopes, the Portuguese keeper has made a couple of errors leading to opposition goals. This lead to the signing of thirty four year old Argentine stopper Cristian Campestrini on a free transfer, Campestrini without a club since being released by Argentine Premier Division Arsenal De Sarani. Timothe Cognat has forced himself into being Lyon's first choice winger but at sixteen, Cognat can't play every game and the lack of another right sided wide player is an issue that needs to be dealt with by the OL hierarchy.
The key player for Lyon this season is very obvious (once you see his Pre season record) after banging in the goals the key player for Lyon is Alexandre Lacazette, the young French striker needs to mature and become Ligue 1's main striker, or at least one of them, Lisandro Lopez has gone to Qatari side Al-Gharrafa last season and now Lacazette's fellow Frenchman Bafitimbi Gomis has also jumped ship after not signing a new contract transferred to Swansea this summer on a bosman freebie. He must also make sure he keeps youngsters Yacine Benzia and Clinyo N'jie on their toes and provide them with a role model. He also looks like a very suitable partner for Timothe Cognat with whom he formed a prolific partenership with in Pre season. It is a risk though that with Lacazette's fine form Lyon will solely rely on him for goals, if that is the case Lyon are in trouble if he gets injured.
Now without Gomis and Lisandro, Lacazette must mature to shoulder responsibility of the goals.
After sixteen years of Ligue 1 football RC Lens were suddenly relegated in 2008, ever sice then they've struggled for stability and after three seasons in Ligue 2 they are one of the bookies favourites to go down and finish ta the foot of the table. And now that centre back Ahmed Kantari has let it be known that he is angling for a move away Lens need to rally to escape the trap door, it's unlikely that they'll produce enough to stay up, but there have been stranger things to happen in football.
Much of Lens' season will be dictated by the goal-scoring form of star striker Yoann Touzghar, since his loan move was made permanent at the beginning of last season Touzghar has gone from strength to strength and has twenty three league goals in just fifty four league appearances for Lens. An agile player with a good turn of speed he looks a player to watch out for this term.
Can Touzghar transfer his Ligue 2 goalscoring form into the top division?
En Avant de Guingamp
Another of the favourites to be relegated to the French second division, after a sixteenth place finish last campaign Guingcamp have made some big signings, Sylvain Marvuex on loan from Newcastle the pick of the bunch and Danish striker Ronnie Schwartz should add some much needed bite to the attack, finally Siebe Schrijvers is a very hot prospect and Guingamp have one of Belgium's seemingly endless supply of wonderkids. But with all this transfer activity will they struggle to work together as a team? If so then manager Jocelyn Gourvennec has some tough egos to manage.
With the new signings this summer the key player for Guingamp is a bit of an open book, but if he can find his form from his time at Stade Rennais then Slyvain Marvuex is surely the Guingamp player to look out for. Also keep an eye out for is the Danish striker Ronnie Schwartz after his £1,700,000 from Superliga side Randers FC.
Marvuex rediscovering his form is key for Guingamp.
Although it may not seem like it Nantes have been tipped to struggle this season, they are a young side and that is what many suggest will be their downfall their prospects are also fast attracting interest and if Nantes don't act quick will lose them to other clubs. A lack of new additions to the squad may come back to haunt them as well with other clubs being able to suss out where the players will go. They have made one signing however, and a good one at that Tomas Martinez on loan from River Plate should add some more creative flair to the Nantes attack.
French playmaker Jordan Veretout will need to be at his chance creating best to help solve a problem that plagued Nantes throughout the 2013/14 season, that problem? Goals. They only hit thirty eight goals in Ligue 1 last season and start this campaign with only two recognized strikers in their squad (Venezuelan Fernando Artistguieta who scored only twice in the league last season) Veretout will also have chip in with his fair share of goals although he only managed one goal last season there is much expected of Nantes latest wonderkid who they hope will be able to shoulder the weight of expectation with ease.
Nantes badly need Veretout to stay if they are to avoid Ligue 2 football next season.