Saturday, February 22, 2020

Ligue 1 Preview – Part 1: Can Anyone Dethrone PSG On The Title Race?

Juan Pablo Aravena in Editorial, Ligue 1 30 Aug 2017

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Out of Europe’s five biggest leagues, the French Ligue 1 is the one that started sooner. And with four matches already played in France’s top flight, it is easy to analyse tendencies to see which teams will fight for the league title, and which ones will contend to avoid a potential relegation to Ligue 2 next season.

The first part of our season preview will take a look at which teams are the favourites to win the title. Or if we are more accurate, we will take a look to see if any team can dethrone PSG. Neymar’s new team are unquestionably the biggest favourites to take home the trophy at the end of the campaign. After all, there’s a reason why they are 1/10 to win the Ligue 1 title.

Biggest Favourite: PSG

Anyone who have seen PSG play in the Ligue 1 this season should not be surprised if we list them as the main favourites to win the title. Unai Emery’s men are too much for that competition, and there is no question they are aiming at the Champions League title. Let’s face it: PSG already won the league. There does not seem to be a team that can stop them any time soon.

It only takes a quick look at their squad to see they are a few steps above the rest of the competition. They have Neymar, Edinson Cavani, and Angel Di Maria upfront, but names such as Lucas Moura and Julian Draxler are alternatives off the bench. The defensive line features Thiago Silva, Dani Alves and Marquinhos, all three players capable of starting for the Brazilian National Team. And the midfield of Marco Verratti, Adrien Rabiot and Thiago Motta must be one of the most versatiles in Europe.

The results back them up as well. PSG have won their four matches with an impressive record of 14 goals scored and only two conceded. And the individual performances have been up to the pre-season expectations, particularly when we talk about some of their biggest stars. Neymar started the season on a tear, and already has three goals and three assists in only three starts. Cavani has contributed with five goals, and Javier Pastore has two. With that kind of firepower, it will be almost impossible to stop Les Parisiens.

For what is worth, Cavani is 5/6 to earn the Golden Boot honors, while Neymar has slightly less favourable odds at 13/5.

Which Team Could Pull An Upset?

Through the first four matches, PSG’s lone threat seem to be AS Monaco. Even though the reigning Ligue 1 champions are on the verge of losing Kylian Mbappe – to PSG, no less – they have built a decent team who could potentially try to upset Les Parisiens. But even in that scenario, we must note Monaco are not as strong as they were last season.

Think about it. Les Monegasques lost Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva, and Tiemoue Bakayoko during the transfer window. And could also lose Kylian Mbappe and Fabinho before the market closes for good. They added some interesting pieces such as Keita Balde, Youri Tielemans, and Stevan Jovetic, but it would be foolish to think Monaco can repeat the title. They can mount a title challange, sure, as their 8/15 odds suggest. But they are not the favourites, and lots of things would have to go their way to see them at the top of the standings for a second straight year.

What About The Rest?

Listing PSG and Monaco as the lone title candidates does not mean the Ligue 1 is a two-team race, just like it happens in La Liga or the German Bundesliga. There are a few other teams that can fight their way into the top, but they are clearly behind PSG and Monaco talent-wise.

Two teams worth mentioning here are Olympique Lyon and Olympique Marseille. By the way, these two clubs could be considered two of the country’s top sides over the past 15 years or so. Let’s remember at one point Lyon won seven Ligue 1 titles in a row. But those days are long gone. They remain capable sides, but it would be shocking to see them fighting for the title unless they can outperform some of the most optimistic predictions.

Thinking about Lyon or Marseille as bonafide title candidates is a bit of stretch. But both are likely to finish in the Top 4. Lyon are 5/1 to earn a Champions League berth next season, while Marseille have less likely odds at 9/1.

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Juan Pablo Aravena

A freelance writer and sports analyst with almost five years of experience in the industry before joining SoccerNews, Juan Pablo Aravena is based in Chile and currently contributes to several publications and websites including SoccerNews, 12up, and Sports From The Basement, while also working as a fantasy beat writer for RotoWire, as a database editor for EA Sports, and as a football analyst for SmartOdds and InsideFutbol. His areas of focus are Serie A, Bundesliga, Premier League, LaLiga, and Ligue 1, but he has also written about MLS and South American football in the past.



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