Last season recap
Monaco won the 8th title in the club’s history, leading throughout the entire second half of the season. Previous champions PSG were not leading the table after any given gameweek. PSG’s Edinson Cavani smashed the goalscoring charts with 35 goals to his name, while Marseille’s Morgan Sansone had the most assists with 14. Marseille’s goalkeeper Yohann Pelé had the most clean sheets, with 18. Despite their title-winning, record-breaking season, Monaco averaged only 9,500 fans at their stadium, the least in the league.
This was the team of the season (Monaco , PSG , Nice , Lyon ):
Djibril Sidibé, Kamil Glik, Thiago Silva, Benjamin Mendy
Bernardo Silva, Marco Verratti, Michaël Seri
Kylian Mbappé, Edinson Cavani, Alexandre Lacazette
Most expensive arrivals this summer (so far)
- Neymar [PSG, €222m]
- Youri Tielemans [Monaco, €25m]
- Ismaïla Sarr [Rennes, €17m]
- Yuri Berchiche [PSG, €16m]
- Terence Kongolo [Monaco, €15m]
- Thiago Maia [Lille, €14m]
- Florian Thauvin [Marseille, €11m]
- Luiz Araújo [Lille, €10.5m]
- Luiz Gustavo [Marseille, €10m]
- Loïs Diony [Saint Etienne, €10m]
The reigning champions
The wonderful Monaco team that scored 107 goals on its way to the title and reached the semifinals of the Champions League is becoming unrecognizable. Benjamin Mendy and Bernardo Silva have moved to Premier League giants Manchester City, with Tiemoué Bakayoko going to their rivals, Chelsea. The future of more stars, like Kylian Mbappé and Fabinho, is still very much in the air. Losing one of the best full backs in Europe, as well as two of the most impressive midfielders of last season, is a big deal. Monaco have made some moves themselves, but it’s nearly impossible to replace the players they lost. Youri Tielemans is the big arrival. The 20-year old midfielder has been running the show in the Belgian league for a few years now, and is seen as the complete package in midfield. Other promising signings include left-back Terence Kongolo, midfielder Soualiho Meité, and young wingers Jordi Mboula and Adama Diakhaby. Leonardo Jardim did turn a lot of relatively unknown players into world beaters, and there’s no reason why he can’t do it again. And while Monaco will probably continue to play exciting football with plenty of goals, there’s no guarantee that that will lead to another title.
STAR PLAYER: Kylian Mbappé (18, FW)
PLAYER TO WATCH: Youri Tielemans (20, CM)
POTENTIAL XI (4-4-2): Subasic; Sidibe, Glik, Jemerson, Kongolo; Lopes, Fabinho, Tielemans, Lemar; Falcao, Mbappé.
The title challengers
Neymar! That’s what’s on everyone’s mind right now, and we don’t blame you. After 4 consecutive titles, and just one season after winning the league with a 31-point difference, the Parisiens failed to keep up with Monaco last season. Now, they have completed the deal of the summer, and perhaps the deal of the decade. Brazilian star Neymar has completed a €222 million transfer, making him the most expensive transfer in history by a big margin. Neymar’s arrival makes PSG the favorites to win the title, but it also makes them a force in Europe. The good news for PSG are piling on, as they’ve managed to keep all of their stars, especially Marco Verratti, despite endless rumors of them leaving. They’ve also patched up the fullback positions, signing Dani Alves from Juventus and Yuri Berchiche from Real Sociedad. There is fierce competition in every single position at PSG, starting with Kevin Trapp and Alphonse Areola in goal, to a midfield that includes Marco Verratti, Blaise Matuidi, Adrien Rabiot, Javier Pastore, and Thiago Motta, and wings that include Julian Draxler, Angel Di Maria, Lucas Moura, Gonçalo Guedes, and now Neymar. It should be an exciting season for PSG, and it will be a disappointing one if it ends in anything but domestic and European glory.
STAR PLAYER: Neymar (25, LW)
PLAYER TO WATCH: Christopher Nkunku (19, CM)
POTENTIAL XI (4-2-3-1): Trapp; Alves, Silva, Marquinhos, Kurzawa; Verratti, Rabiot; Neymar, Draxler, Lucas; Cavani.
Simply put, Lille should be one of the most exciting teams in Europe to watch this season. Having already spent over €65 million, it is difficult to see Marcelo Bielsa’s team being a failure. ‘The Great Danes’ finished in 11th place last season, but this time around, they should at least be fighting for the European spots. Despite losing captain Rio Mavuba to Sparta Prague and the only player to play in every league game last season, Sébastien Corchia, to Sevilla, the future’s looking bright for Lille. One of the most promising midfield talents to come out of Brazil in recent times has joined in the form of Thiago Maia, who’s expected to have a crucial role right away. Partnering him in midfield will be his compatriot Thiago Mendes, who arrived from Sao Paulo. Also from Sao Paulo, Luiz Araujo has come in to strengthen the wings. They’ve done some shopping domestically too, bringing over Saint-Etienne’s Kevin Malcuit and Angers’ Nicolas Pepe. Nicolas de Préville (14 goals last season) should be the undisputed starter up front, but youngsters Yassine Benzia and Ezequiel Ponce are intriguing alternatives. While there is a lot of excitement from the young attacking players, the same thing can’t be said for their defense. Their best centre-back Adama Soumaoro won’t be fit until the winter, which may see the inexperienced, but exciting signing Edgar Ié thrown in immediately. The smart thing to do from Bielsa though, would be to sign a quality centre-back before it’s too late, so their attacking efforts don’t go undone from a weak defense.
STAR PLAYER: Nicolas de Préville (26, ST)
PLAYER TO WATCH: Thiago Maia (20, CM)
POTENTIAL XI (4-3-3): Enyeama; Malcuit, Alonso, Ié, Palmieri; Mendes, Amadou, Maia; El Ghazi, de Préville, Araújo.
Marseille went 11 games without a loss at the end of last season, getting themselves into a Europa League spot in the process. This summer, they’ve continued that tremendous form, winning 5 and drawing 1 of their friendlies. They’ve also started their European campaign successfully, winning 4-2 over Oostende. Most importantly, though, Marseille haven’t lost any key players. On the other hand, they have made some great signings. Valere Germain has joined from Monaco, and has scored 7 goals in preseason, including a hat trick against Oostende in the Europa League. Florian Thauvin and Clinton N’jie have made their loans permanent, and they too, are in great form in preseason. Luiz Gustavo has come to add some experience to a young midfield, while Adil Rami and Steve Mandanda add some steel in defense. And let’s not forget, Marseille boast one of the best individuals in Ligue 1 in Dimitri Payet. The France international elevated the team to a new level last year after his January move, and he’ll be expected to lead them to the title this season.
STAR PLAYER: Dimitri Payet (30, LW)
PLAYER TO WATCH: Maxime Lopez (19, CM)
POTENTIAL XI (4-3-3): Mandanda; Sakai, Rami, Doria, Evra; Gustavo, Lopez, Sansone; Thauvin, Germain, Payet.
Nice is building somewhat of a reputation for being inconsistent. In 2011 and 2014 they barely managed to stay up, in 2013, 2016, and 2017, they made a European spot their own, and in the years between those, they were a mediocre mid-table team. So what happens when you throw the Champions League into the equation? It’s hard to say. Their summer has started well: they’ve already eliminated Ajax from the Champions League and will play Sevilla in the play-off round. They’ve done well to hold on to their star players, with Paul Baysse the only big name leaving, but the futures of Michaël Seri and Dalbert are still in the air. Their signings haven’t turned too many heads either, with midfielders Pierre Lees Melo and Jean-Victor Makengo costing them a combined €9 million, while Christophe Jallet has been brought in for free. It will be interesting to see if Mario Balotelli and Alassane Pléa will rotate or if manager Lucien Favre will find a way to accommodate them both in the starting lineup. Whatever the case is, it will be difficult for Nice to put up a title challenge while holding their own in the Champions League, especially if they can’t hold onto their star players.
STAR PLAYER: Jean Michaël Seri (26, CM)
PLAYER TO WATCH: Malang Sarr (18, CB)
POTENTIAL XI (4-3-3): Cardinale; Souquet, Dante, Sarr, Dalbert; Seri, Koziello, Cyprien; Pléa, Balotelli, Eysseric.
Even though on paper, Lyon have one of the best teams in the league, this could prove to be a difficult season for them. This summer, they’ve lost arguably their top 2 players. Alexandre Lacazette, who’s been their top scorer for 4 seasons in a row, has made his move to England, where he’ll be playing for Arsenal. Corentin Tolisso, who’s been their main man in midfield for the last 3 seasons, has moved to Bayern Munich. Add to that the losses of Mathieu Valbuena, Maxime Gonalons, Rachid Ghezzal, and Emanuel Mammana, and it’s easy to see that this hasn’t been the ideal summer for Lyon. It’s not all bad for them though. Chelsea’s Bertrand Traoré and Real Madrid’s Mariano Díaz have joined, and they are both familiar with scoring goals. The defense that conceded 48 goals last season (most in the top 6) has been upgraded, with Kenny Tete and Marçal providing options out wide, and experienced Marcelo occupying a spot in the centre. There’s still more money to spend from Tolisso’s and Lacazette’s sales, and if they want to have a chance to challenge for the title, they need to spend. The hole that Lacazette and Tolisso have left may prove to be too much to fill, especially early in the season. However, the likes of Memphis Depay and Nabil Fekir do have what it takes to make this team a challenging one, and the center of midfield is filled with options.
STAR PLAYER: Nabil Fekir (24, AM)
PLAYER TO WATCH: Lucas Tousart (20, CM)
POTENTIAL XI (4-2-3-1): Lopes; Tete, N’Koulou, Marcelo, Marçal; Tousart, Darder; Traoré, Fekir, Depay; Díaz.
Bordeaux had a decent, consistent season last time around, finishing sixth in the table and reaching the quarterfinals for one domestic cup and the semifinal for the other. Ultimately, though, they’ll feel like it’s time to take it up a notch, and this may be the season they make that happen. Exciting young winger Adam Ounas, who’s moved to Napoli, is their only big departure of the summer. The wings are still a key area to watch for Bordeaux though, with 20-year old Malcom and 21-year old Kamano both involved in more than 10 goals last season. There’s plenty of excitement in midfield as well, as youngsters like Valentin Vada and newcomer Lukas Lerager ease the workload of veterans Jérémy Toulalan and Jaroslav Plašil. There hasn’t been much movement in defense, with Vukasin Jovanovic the only arrival, to replace the outgoing Nicolas Pallois. Without a doubt though, the signature of goalkeeper Benoît Costil on a free is the biggest signing for Bordeaux, and may prove to be a game-changer in their fight for a Champions League spot. Bordeaux’s season will be dependant on how well their experienced players can connect with the young exciting players, as many players are either over 30 or under 23.
STAR PLAYER: Younousse Sankharé (27, CM)
PLAYER TO WATCH: Malcom (20, RW)
POTENTIAL XI (4-3-3): Costil; Sabaly, Lewczuk, Toulalan, Contento; Arambarri, Vada, Sankharé; Malcom, Rolán, Kamano.
The last time Rennes qualified for a European spot was almost 10 years ago, and they’ve been flirting with those spots ever since. In the past three years, they’ve finished 9th, 8th, and 9th again, but time has come for them to mount a serious challenge for a Europa League spot. But let’s talk about the negatives first. Benoît Costil, one of the best goalkeepers in the league, has left for free to a direct rival in Bordeaux, and Rennes have not signed a goalkeeper. That must mean they either trust Abdoulaye Diallo, who has played 7 games in Ligue 1, or Raïs M’Bolhi, who’s played none. They’ve also sold Pedro Mendes and Giovanni Sio to Montpellier for a total of just over €3 million, which is simply less than what they should be valued at. On the other hand, they have overpaid for most of their signings, but what matters is that they have actually made some signings. 19-year old winger Ismaila Sarr has cost them €17 million, and if that price tag is anything to go by, he’ll be expected to play a key role right away. Rennes are clearly focusing on building a young team, as they’ve also signed 19-year old winger Faitout Maouassa and 23-year old midfielder Benjamin Bourigeaud. Despite this being a young, exciting team, it is difficult to see where the goals will come from, as the only forward they’ve signed is 22-year old Brandon, who scored 12 goals for Mallorca last season.
STAR PLAYER: Benjamin André (27, CM)
PLAYER TO WATCH: Ismaila Sarr (19, LW)
POTENTIAL XI (4-2-3-1): Diallo; Traoré, Mexer, Gnagnon, Baal; André, Bourigeaud; Amalfitano, Gourcuff, Sarr; Mubele.
Saint-Etienne are one of the most consistent sides in France, having finished in the top half of the table every season since 2010-2011. For 3 seasons in a row before the last one, they finished in the Europa League spots, before slipping to 8th last season. This year, they’ll try to get back to European spots, and they’ve had a decent transfer window so far. The signing of Loïs Diony, who scored 11 goals with a weak Dijon side last season, should increase their goal output – they only scored 41 goals last season. The lack of a proven goalscorer was a huge flaw for Saint-Etienne last season; their top scorer was winger Romain Hamouma with only 7 goals. Assane Dioussé should provide some steel in midfield. The 19-year old was a key player for Empoli last season, playing in 33 league games. He joins a crowded midfield that boasts the likes of Bryan Dabo, Ole Solnæs, and Vincent Pajot. It hasn’t been all great for the Saints though, as they’ve lost right-back Kevin Malcuit to Lille, and midfielder Jordan Veretout, who played 35 league games last season, has moved to Fiorentina. In order for them to have a successful campaign, Saint-Etienne must continue being solid defensively, but they’ll have to add something new to their attack.
STAR PLAYER: Stéphane Ruffier (30, GK)
PLAYER TO WATCH: Assane Dioussé (19, CM)
POTENTIAL XI (5-4-1): Ruffier; Pierre-Gabriel, Théophile-Catherine, Perrin, Pogba, M’Bengue; Hamouma, Dioussé, Selnæs, Monnet-Paquet; Diony.
23 weeks into their first season back in Ligue 1 in 2015-16, Angers found themselves in 3rd place. Exactly one year later, they found themselves in a relegation spot. Yet, the conclusion to both seasons was similar: despite high highs and low lows, Angers found themselves in mid-table come the end of the season (9th in 2016 and 12th in 2017). This season may not prove to be too different, as they’ve lost some key players, but also brought in some good ones. Last season’s top scorer Famara Diédhiou has made his way to England with Bristol City, but goals shouldn’t be a problem for Angers. Enzo Crivelli and Baptiste Guillaume, both 22 years old, have been brought in. They scored 10 goals each last season, with Crivelli doing it in League 1 with Bastia and Guillaume in League 2 with Strasbourg. Karl Toko Ekambi, who scored 7 times last season, should also be very involved. The loss of star midfielder Cheikh Ndoye can be a big problem, but young midfielders Lassana Coulibaly and Angelo Fulgini have been brought in for depth. The defense hasn’t been troubled at all, with no noticeable transfers in or out. While Angers have shown glimpses of quality to challenge for European spots, they remain far too inconsistent for something better than mid-table.
STAR PLAYER: Thomas Mangani (30, CM)
PLAYER TO WATCH: Angelo Fulgini (20, CM)
POTENTIAL XI (4-3-3): Michel; Manceau, Thomas, Traoré, Andreu; Santamaria, Mangani, Fulgini; Guillaume, Crivelli, Ekambi.
In the last 4 seasons, Guingamp has established an interesting pattern: 16th, then 10, then 16th, and then 10th again. If the pattern continues, that would mean a relegation battle for Guingamp, but this may be the season they establish themselves as a decent mid-table team. They’re more or less the same team they were at the end of last season: the departures of Alexandre Mendy and Nill De Pauw are the biggest ones, but neither of them was really a key player. Meanwhile, they’ve done some good business themselves, bringing in South African midfielder Lebogang Phiri and former Swansea defender Franck Tabanou for free. Another exciting purchase is that of Marcus Thuram, who made a name for himself at this year’s U20 World Cup. He may take some minutes from the aging Jimmy Briand up front. Another player who did well at the U20 World Cup for France was midfielder Ludovic Blas, who will look to start more than the 10 league games he started last season. Competition in midfield is fierce though, with experienced players like Yannis Salibur, Lucas Deaux, and Moustapha Diallo all fighting for a few spots. The defense should remain the same as last-year, but there will be concerns over depth in case of injuries and suspensions.
STAR PLAYER: Yannis Salibur (26, RW)
PLAYER TO WATCH: Marcus Coco (21, LW)
POTENTIAL XI (4-3-3): Johnsson; Ikoko, Kerbrat, Sorbon, Tabanou; Deaux, Blas, Phiri; Salibur, Briand, Coco.
Ever since Olivier Giroud led Montpellier to a shocking title in 2012, they have had mostly mediocre seasons, finishing somewhere between high mid-table and just above the relegation spots. Last season, 8 losses in their last 10 games saw them drop all the way down to 15th place, but ultimately still surviving. Their top scorer Steve Mounié will be fighting another relegation fight, that of the Premier League with Huddersfield Town. Giovanni Sio, who scored 9 goals last season, has been brought in to replace him. Ryad Boudebouz (11 league goals last season) and Casimir Ninga (5 goals in 9 games) should also contribute in attack. Their defense, which was a big problem last season (66 goals conceded), has been improved by the arrivals of goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte and centre-back Pedro Mendes. The loan signings of Jonathan Ikoné and Facundo Piriz can also prove to be crucial to their campaign. It’s difficult to see Montpellier fighting for the European spots with so much talent on some other teams, but they should have a solid enough team to see off relegation.
STAR PLAYER: Ryad Boudebouz (27, AM)
PLAYER TO WATCH: Nordi Mukiele (19, RB)
POTENTIAL XI (4-2-3-1): Lemonte; Mukiele, Mendes, Pokorny, Roussillon; Skhiri, Piriz; Mbenza, Boudebouz, Ikoné; Sio.
After two 14th place finishes, Nantes climbed up the table last season, finishing in 7th place; their highest league finish since 2004. The football they play isn’t particularly exciting: they only scored 40 goals last season – even the relegated Lorient scored more than them. This season, under Claudio Ranieri, things should get a little more interesting. No one’s saying he’ll do another Leicester, but it’s very likely that his team will reach a new level. Despite the positivity Ranieri has brought in the club, he hasn’t done much in terms of transfers. Goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu and centre-back Nicolas Pallois are coming in, while the exciting attacking midfielder Amine Harit has moved to Schalke 04. To be fair to Nantes though, their team is already a pretty exciting one. Their midfield is full of 22-25 year olds who will be fighting among themselves for minutes, and in Lucas Lima and Léo Dubois, they boast two of the most effective fullbacks in the league. We’ve already seen Ranieri take a 4-4-2 and do magic with it; how far can he go this time?
STAR PLAYER: Emiliano Sala (26, FW)
PLAYER TO WATCH: Chidozie Awaziem (20, CB)
POTENTIAL XI (4-4-2): Tatarusanu; Dubois, Carlos, Pallois, Lima; Iloki, Rongier, Gillet, Thomasson; Sala, Sigthorsson.
The relegation avoiders
Caen managed to stay up last season after a 1-1 draw against PSG in the last gameweek. That point was one of only 6 points they managed in the last 11 games of the season. Preseason hasn’t been very promising for Caen either, as they’ve lost to Angers and Rennes, all on top of a forgettable transfer window. Exciting central midfielder Jean-Victor Makengo has made his way to a more exciting team, Nice, with 25-year old Stef Peeters coming from the Belgian team to replace him. A bigger problem is the departure of many important defensive players. Alaedinne Yahia (31 league games last season), Jordan Adeoti (27 games), and Syam Ben Youssef (17 games) have all left at the end of their contracts. Ivan Santini was the team’s savior last season, scoring 15 of the 36 goals that they scored. Manager Patrice Garande will be hoping for a similar output from the Croatian again, as the rest of the team doesn’t seem to be good enough to stay up yet another season.
STAR PLAYER: Ivan Santini (28, ST)
PLAYER TO WATCH: Yann Karamoh (19, ST)
POTENTIAL XI (5-3-2): Vercoutre; Guilbert, Da Silva, Genevois, Djiku, Bessat; Diomandé, Peeters, Féret; Santini, Rodelin.
Like Caen, Dijon needed some late miracles to stay up last season. 4 points in their last 2 games meant that Dijon just edged it out, with only 1 point more than the relegated Lorient. This season is setting up to be a similar one to the last one. They’ve already lost two of their top players in striker Loïs Diony, who has moved to Saint-Etienne for €10m after scoring 11 league goals last season, and attacking midfielder Pierre Lees Melou, who has moved to Nice for €4m after scoring 7 league goals last season. This should see Júlio Tavares and new signing Benjamin Jeannot carrying the weight up front. There’s plenty to be excited for in the wings, with Wesley Saïd joining from Rennes and Naïm Sliti coming on loan from Lille. The defense should see an improvement this season, after the signings of centre-backs Wesley Lautoa and Cédric Yambéré. There haven’t been many notable changes in midfield, but we can expect youngsters like Anthony Belmonte and Dylan Bahamboula to see more minutes than they did last year. If they can turn some of last season’s draws to wins, Dijon may very well survive for yet another season in the top flight.
STAR PLAYER: Baptiste Reynet (26, GK)
PLAYER TO WATCH: Anthony Belmonte (21, CM)
POTENTIAL XI (4-3-3): Reynet; Chafik, Yambéré, Lautoa, Haddadi; Abeid, Kwon, Sammaritano; Tavares, Jeannot, Saïd.
Metz didn’t have the easiest of times in their first season back in Ligue 1, as they conceded 72 goals, the most in the league. Toulouse, who finished 13th, one place above Metz, conceded 31 goals less than them. Despite of their defensive problems, they are yet to sign a centre-back, even as Guido Milan (22 games last season) makes his way to Liga MX. They’ve also lost youngster Ismaïla Sarr, who’s made a €17 million move to Rennes. Their biggest signing of the summer is Nolan Roux, who only scored 4 goals for Saint-Etienne last season. Gerónimo Poblete has come from Argentina to replace the outgoing Georges Mandjeck, in a midfield that will also boast Portuguese player Cafu. Perhaps the worst news of them all is that both of their top scorers from last season, Cheick Diabaté and Mevlüt Erdinç, have gone back to their respective clubs at the end of their loans. So, on top of their defensive suffering, Metz will also struggle to get goals, unless more players are brought in. While they do have one of the largest squads in the league, this quantity unfortunately does not translate to quality, making them one of the main favorites for relegation.
STAR PLAYER: Cafu (24, CM)
PLAYER TO WATCH: Thomas Didillon (21, GK)
POTENTIAL XI (4-3-3): Didillon; Balliu, Falette, Diagne, Assou-Ekotto; Doukouré, Cohade, Cafu; Jouffre, Roux, Nguette.
Toulouse have been fighting off relegation for three seasons in a row now, which is unfortunate, and somewhat surprising when you look at their team. They boast some of the most exciting talent in France, including goalkeeper Alban Lafont, centre-back Issa Diop, and midfielder Alexis Blin, all under the age of 20. These youngsters will have to really step it up this season, especially with the departure of 2 of Toulouse’s star players: Óscar Trejo and Martin Braithwaite. Arsenal’s Yaya Sanogo and Monaco’s Corentin Jean, who spent the second half of last season on loan at Toulouse, have been brought in to help out with the goal-getting. Meanwhile, it looks like Swede internationals Jimmy Durmaz and Ola Toivonen will have to do all the creative work this season, with Trejo gone. Defensively, Toulouse should continue being as solid as last season, when they conceded less goals than any team except the top three and Marseille. The partnership of Diop and Jullien in the heart of defense is slowly becoming one of the best in the league, and there’s no reason for that to change this season. If one of Andy Delort, Corentin Jean, and Yaya Sanogo can start scoring on a regular basis, Toulouse may very well escape the relegation fight this season, and battle it out in the middle of the table.
STAR PLAYER: Alexis Blin (20, DM)
PLAYER TO WATCH: Clément Michelin (20, RB)
POTENTIAL XI (4-2-3-1): Lafont; Michelin, Diop, Jullien, Moubandje; Blin, Bodiger; Jean, Toivonen, Durmaz; Delort.
After 116 years of existence, Amiens is getting ready to play its first ever season in the top tier of French football. They almost missed out of the opportunity in an incredibly close promotion race last season, securing the second place in Ligue 2 with a 96th minute winner against Reims. This summer has seen them lose their top scorer from last season, Aboubakar Kamara, who scored 11 times. It’s difficult to predict where the goals will be coming from this season. The only striker brought in so far is 21-year old Brighton Labeau, who has no previous top-flight experience. The experienced Charly Charrier, who played behind Kamara last season, may move up to the #9 spot. Another option is 23-year old Quentin Cornette, who only started one game last season. Things are looking better further down the pitch though, with youngsters Tanguy NDombèlé and Harisson Manzala expected to play big roles in midfield, along with the signing of the experienced Gaël Kakuta. The heart of defense should be a mix of experience and youth, with former PSG and Lyon player Mathieu Bodmer partnering up with the promising Prince Gouano. Amiens’ sole goal this season should be to avoid relegation, in order to continue their impressive growth as a club.
STAR PLAYER: Thomas Monconduit (26, CM)
PLAYER TO WATCH: Tanguy NDombèlé (20, CM)
POTENTIAL XI (4-4-1-1): Gurtner; Cissokho, Bodmer, Gouano, Dibassy; Bourgaud, NDombèlé, Monconduit, Kakuta; Charrier; Cornette.
While Amiens’ 96th minute goal grabbed all the headlines at the end of last season, Troyes’ rise to Ligue 1 was even more dramatic. First, they found themselves 2-0 down with 30 minutes to go in the final league game of the season, knowing that anything but a win wouldn’t be good enough. Winger Stéphane Darbion inspired an incredible comeback, scoring once and assisting two goals as they won 3-2 and climbed to 3rd place. Their dream came close to dying once again in the playoffs, but a 91st minute goal by 40-year old Benjamin Nivet guaranteed their promotion. Unlike the other promoted teams, Troyes haven’t really lost anyone important to the team, while making some interesting moves themselves. They’ve gone for some defensive minded players with Ligue 1 experience, including Nantes’ centre-back Oswaldo Vizcarrondo and Lorient midfielder François Bellegou. Most importantly though, they’ve kept their star man, striker Adama Niane, who led Ligue 2 with 23 goals last season, while contributing with 5 assists. Many things will have to go right for Troyes for them to have a good season, but with Niane staying and the new reinforcements in defense, there’s no reason they shouldn’t stay up for another season.
STAR PLAYER: Adama Niane (24, FW)
PLAYER TO WATCH: Aloïs Confais (20, DM)
POTENTIAL XI (4-2-3-1): Samassa; Deplagne, Giraudon, Hérelle, Obiang; Bellugou, Dingomé; Grandsir, Ben Saada, Pelé; Niane.
Almost a decade after being relegated, Strasbourg have found their way to the top tier of French football once again. It’s been quite the ride for Strasbourg, who were liquidated and then put in the 5th tier back in 2011. Since then, it’s been promotion after promotion, culminating with the Ligue 2 title last season. The summer hasn’t been ideal for them: strikers Khalid Boutaïb and Baptiste Guillaume, who scored 30 of the team’s 63 goals last season, are gone. Idriss Saadi (16 goals in the Belgian league) and Nuno Da Costa (9 goals in Ligue 2) have been brought in to replace them. They’ll also face competition from captain Jérémy Blayac and 25-year old Stéphane Bahoken. And while the competition up front is stiff, there’s less to be excited about in defense. There’s only 3 centre-backs currently in the team, and new signing Kenny Lala is the only right back. The arrivals of Jonas Martin and Benjamin Corgnet have significantly improved the midfield, and Dimitri Liénard, who was one of the best players in Ligue 2 last season, is expected to play a big role as well. Preseason has reflected what is to be expected of Strasbourg this season: while they do score plenty of goals, they have a difficult time keeping them out, and unless defense is improved before the end of the transfer window, it may end up being their downfall.
STAR PLAYER: Jonas Martin (27, CM)
PLAYER TO WATCH: Ihsan Sacko (20, AM)
POTENTIAL XI (4-3-1-2): Oukidja; Lala, Seka, Salmier, Martinez; Martin, Grimm, Liénard; Corgnet; Saadi, Bahoken.