The powerhouse in the French Ligue 1 has been Paris St. Germain and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. The Paris giants have essentially their entire team returning to defend their French League crown. They’ve also added some pieces, the most notable being Brazilian central defender formerly of Chelsea David Luiz for £50 million. The deal is the most expensive for a defender in football history, he’ll join fellow Brazilian Thiago Silva in central defense.
On paper PSG are clearly the favorites to win the league and based on their talent they should progress far in the Champions League as well. When you have a striking force like Zlatan Ibrahimovic the question is not whether you are going to score but how many. Ibra led the league in goals last season with 26 and finished second in the league in assists with 11. He’s an absolute play maker and clearly one of the Top 5 best forwards in the world. Then on top of that you have Edinson Cavani another world class striker (5th in the league in scoring) and Ezequiel Lavezzi a winger from World Cup runner up Argentina. PSG are the most dangerous scoring team in the league and they are looking to improve upon their 84 goals last season and ridiculous goal differential of +61.
There has been speculation that Cavani could be moved but I highly doubt that’s going to happen especially since he was just acquired from Napoli just a year ago. If anything PSG are close to signing another Argentinian winger in Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid but FIFA’s fair play sanctions given to PSG might hamper that. And to complicate the situation even more Lavezzi’s name is being discussed in transfer rumors possibly to Liverpool. I’m picking Paris St. Germain to win Ligue 1 and win comfortably as they did in 2013/2014 despite what juggling happens with their roster. The more difficult question is who will be the next best teams in the league.
Last year the runner up was AS Monaco who went on a spending spree of epic proportions (£140 million) but their efforts to overtake France came up short. They ended the year 9 points below PSG and the outcome could have been different had their bank busting Colombian striker Radamel Falcao stayed healthy. Falcao when healthy is an amazing talent, we’ve seen that in his time at Atletico Madrid and Porto.
But last season Falcao failed to meet expectations and lead Monaco to the promise land. He joined Monaco on a £50 million deal but he only played 17 games, scoring 9 goals due to a serious knee injury he suffered in January. Falcao is expected to be healthy now but the question is what are Monaco going to do with their roster? It appears they’re leaning towards a fire sale but only one major move has occurred thus far.
Monaco sold James Rodriguez to Real Madrid already for €80 million, a mere year after acquiring him from Porto for €45 million. Reports are that Falcao to Real Madrid could also be a possibility but I’ll believe that when I see it. If anything it could be a year long loan just to buy Monaco time for them to decide what the direction of their club is going to be. Outside of Falcao, you’re looking at a roster of Dimitar Berbatov, Joao Moutinho and Jeremy Toulalan.
I have no doubt that if Monaco could’ve decided their fate they would’ve kept James Rodriguez a rising star who was the leading goal scorer at the World Cup and transfer Falcao who you could classify as a bit of an unknown. Even before his injury Falcao got a bad reputation of being difficult to play with as he was scoreless in every game he played with Rodriguez at Monaco. And the fact that Rodriguez excelled for Colombia in the World Cup without Falcao is more reason to believe that Falcao is the issue.
The third place team last year was Lille OSC who lead the league with the most clean sheets (shutouts). Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama had 20 on the season which was four more than PSG’s Salvatore Sirigu. Lille are a very solid defensive team who will return all four of their starting defenders and they’ve even added the Under-21 French captain Sebastien Corchia. Their biggest question will be who and how are they going to score goals. Former Chelsea winger Salomon Kalou was their top scorer with 16 goals, actually second in the league, which was a slight improvement over his 14 goals from two years ago.
This summer Lille and Liverpool agreed to a transfer of Belgian striker Divock Origi who was showcased during this summer’s World Cup with a game winning goal over Russia. Luckily for Lille, Liverpool have subsequently loaned him back to Lille for the entire season. So far Origi hasn’t accomplished much at Lille, he’s only scored 6 goals in 4o games but the kid is only 19 years old.
The final spot in the battle for the Top 4 I believe will be between Olympique Marseille (OM) and Olympique Lyon. It’s really a coin flip at this point and while I favor Marseille based on their roster my gut is telling me to pick Lyon. Marseille has a nice attacking duo with Andre Ayew (3 goals) and Andre-Pierre Gignac (16 goals). Their goalkeeper Steve Mandanda had a down year especially compared to years prior. Last season he allowed 40 goals which was up from 36 the year before and even his FIFA rating dropped.
Also it appears that tiny midfielder Mathieu Valbuena, a mainstay on the French National Team, is on his way out. Valbuena has been linked to West Ham and QPR of the Barclays Premier League but instead will move to Russia’s Dynamo. All of those reason make me hesitant to pick Marseille even though I think they will be there competing all season long. You may remember Valbuena as the little guy who jumped on Olivier Giroud’s back celebrating a goal during the World Cup spawning many Twitter memes.
So instead I’m going with Lyon who lost to Paris St. Germain in the French Cup Final. Olympique Lyon has my new favorite player Alexandre Lacazette a 23 year old French striker who is my player to watch in 2014/2015. He scored 15 goals last season to lead the team and I fully expect that number to approach 20. Their secondary striker Gomis was just transferred on a free loan to Swansea City so Lacazette will need to pick up the slack. It seems like many lifetimes ago but from 2002 to 2008 Lyon won 7 straight Ligue 1 titles.
Lyon finished in 5th place last season but enter this one with a new coach but the same old team. Yoann Gourcuff has struggled since his big money transfer from Bordeaux in 2010. In those 72 games he’s only scored 11 times which is extremely disappointing for an attacking midfielder. In fact in 2008-2009 he was named the Ligue 1 player of the year. He’s far from that form but they’ll need the 28 year old to improve his game and lead Lyon to a better finish than a 17-10-11 record.
*Season kicks off August 8th with PSG vs. Stade Reims, everyone else plays either August 9th or 10th
**Top 2 teams advance to Champions League, 3rd place into Champions League Qualification
- Paris St. Germain
- AS Monaco
- Olympique Lyon
- OG Nice
- FC Metz
Top Scorers in 2013/2014
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paris St. Germain – 26
- Andre-Pierre Gignac, Marseille – 16
- Vincent Aboubakar, FC Lorient – 16
- Wissam Ben Yedder, Toulouse FC – 16
- Edinson Cavani, Paris St. Germain – 16
Top Assisters in 2013/2014
- James Rodriguez, AS Monaco – 12
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paris St. Germain – 11
- Lucas, Paris St. Germain – 10
- Gregory Sertic, Bordeaux – 10
- Henri Bedimo, Lyon – 8
Pre-Season Best XI
- GK – Stephane Ruffier, AS Saint-Etienne
- D – Henri Bedimo, Lyon
- D – Thiago Silva, Paris St. Germain
- D – Marko Basa, Lille
- D – David Luiz, Paris St. Germain
- M – Ezequiel Lavezzi, Paris St. Germain
- M – Jeremy Toulalan, AS Monaco
- M – Yohan Cabaye, Paris St. Germain
- F – Edinson Cavani, Paris St. Germain
- F – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paris St. Germain
- F – Radamel Falcao, AS Monaco