Friday, April 20, 2018

What has happened to PSG´s challengers in Ligue 1?

SoccerNews in Ligue 1 12 Aug 2016


Paris Saint-Germain had won just two Ligue 1 titles between its founding in 1970, following the merger between Paris FC and Stade Saint-Germain, and the takeover by Qatar Sports Investments in June 2011, with their last victorious campaign going as far back as 1993-94.

However, since control of the club switched to Nasser Al-Khelaifi, PSG have dominated the French top flight.  

They had to settle for second place behind Montpellier in 2011-12, but no team has come close to matching them as the capital club have cruised to four consecutive Ligue 1 titles, edging closer to overhauling Lyon as the most successful team in the division this century, posing the question as to whether PSG have any legitimate challengers.

Les Gones had been calling the shots in France in the 2000s with a record-setting streak of seven titles in a row, but have been unable to build on those successes since. Lyon, though, appear to be on the right track again after a number of difficult years.

They have finished as runners-up in the past two seasons after missing out on Champions League football in 2013-14 and seem determined to challenge PSG for the title once more in 2016-17 after finishing 31 points behind the champions last term. 

Lyon saw highly-rated defender Samuel Umtiti leave the club for Barcelona, but brought in Nicolas N’Koulou and Emanuel Mammana to strengthen their backline. Additionally, club president Jean-Michel Aulas turned down an offer from Arsenal for star attacker Alexandre Lacazette, while Corentin Tolisso snubbed a move to Napoli.

With Nabil Fekir 100 per cent fit again after a season on the sidelines due to a knee injury, Lyon will be optimistic about their chances of causing PSG more trouble than in 2015-16, even if they were heavily beaten 4-1 by the title-holders in the Trophee des Champions.

Monaco, meanwhile, will also be hopeful of improving on last term’s third-place finish. Their spending might no longer be on the same level as in the first years after Dmitry Rybolovlev acquired the club, when they brought in big names such as Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho, but they remain a force to be reckoned with.  

Having identified the defence as their weakest link, Monaco secured the services of defenders Kamil Glik, Djibril Sidibe and Benjamin Mendy for a total of €40 million.

Portugal international Bernardo Silva will be keen to make more of an impact as he looks to take the next step in his career alongside compatriot Moutinho, while attacker Kylian Mbappe is one of the most exciting youngsters around in the game.

The return of Falcao also serves as a considerable boost to a side that will be dreaming of a first title win since 1999-2000.

Marseille are traditionally a title contender in Ligue 1, too, but the Stade Velodrome side seemingly stand little chance of challenging for top honours this season after a disastrous 2015-16 campaign.

They failed to cope with the departure of star players Giannelli Imbula, Dimitri Payet, Andre Ayew and Andre-Pierre Gignac and found themselves briefly battling against relegation before, eventually finishing 13th in the table. 

With more key figures like Michy Batshuayi, Steve Mandanda, N’Koulou and Mendy on their way out this close-season, even challenging for European football seems an ambitious goal for the beleaguered Velodrome outfit.

Bordeaux, Lille, Montpellier and Nantes are the only other teams to have won the Ligue 1 title this century, but none appear to be realistic challengers for domestic glory at this stage. 

Lille might be best-placed out of that quartet following their fifth-place finish in 2015-16 and head coach Frederic Antonetti does have a number of highly-rated players at his disposal in Sofiane Boufal, Yassine Benzia, Sebastien Corchia and Vincent Enyeama. Still, they would need a Leicester City-like miracle to surprise teams such as PSG, Lyon and Monaco. 

Bordeaux had to settle for 11th place in the table last term and, although they can call on some exciting youngsters such as Brazilian forward Malcom and attacking midfielder Adam Ounas, they are nowhere near the level required to worry PSG, with Montpellier and Nantes finding themselves very much in the same situation.

PSG will thus fancy their chances of making it five in a row in 2016-17, despite losing star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The reigning champions secured the services of Jese Rodriguez, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Hatem Ben Arfa, Thomas Meunier and Giovani Lo Celso to further strengthen their squad and, even though the gap to the runners-up should be slightly smaller following Lyon and Monaco’s clever business, should have more than enough to see off all of their rivals once again.


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