The French Ligue 1 is one of the most popular football leagues in Europe, with clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain, Marseille, Lyon, Lille and Monaco competing throughout the season.
A heavily reinforced Paris Saint-Germain will attempt to wrestle back the Ligue 1 title from surprise champions Lille, who also recently beat PSG to win the Trophée des Champions, when the new season begins this weekend in France with supporters set to return to stadiums.
Ligue 1 kicks off on Friday when Monaco play Nantes, a week before any of the continent’s other leading football leagues.
The French game has historically struggled to keep up with its rivals in England, Spain, Germany and Italy. Lille’s title triumph in May was remarkable and they deserved better than to win the league in an empty stadium, but last season in Ligue 1 was played out almost entirely behind closed doors. This season full-capacity, maskless crowds will be allowed in from the opening weekend however anyone attending games will have to provide proof of full vaccination, a negative coronavirus test or proof of having recently recovered from the virus.
The financial situation is desperate according to the DNCG, French football’s financial watchdog. Most clubs are unlikely to survive the season unless their owners further invest significant amounts of money.
Six-time champions Bordeaux were already close to bankruptcy before being bought last month by Luxembourg-born businessman Gerard Lopez, previously the owner of Lille.
PSG, with the backing of Qatar, are of course an exception as they look to reclaim a crown they won seven times in eight years before last season.
They have signed veteran Real Madrid centre-back Sergio Ramos, Liverpool and Netherlands midfield star Georginio Wijnaldum and Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma — the best player at Euro 2020 — on free transfers. They also paid a reported 60 million euros to sign flying full-back Achraf Hakimi from Inter Milan. Coach Mauricio Pochettino has extended his contract until 2023 but one man who has not extended is Kylian Mbappe — his contract is now in its final year.
Lille’s triumph last season means a PSG title success cannot be taken for granted, but the contenders are hardly lining up. Lille have lost their brilliant coach Christophe Galtier to Nice while goalkeeper Mike Maignan has gone to AC Milan.
Lyon have a new coach in Dutchman Peter Bosz and have lost star player Memphis Depay to Barcelona. Despite huge debts, American owner Frank McCourt has backed a big recruitment drive at Marseille but perhaps the most realistic threat to PSG will come from the Cote d’Azur while Monaco will hope to build on last season’s third place under Niko Kovac.
Mike Makaab’s Best Bet:
St Etienne Win
Brazil Win – 90 minutes only