Whilst Ligue 1 football has often been put in the shadows by other European football leagues, it’s still fiercely competitive and gives you chance to see modern-day legends like Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in action.
So will Paris Saint Germain go back to winning ways, or will Lyon do the unthinkable and claim the Ligue 1 title for the first time in over ten years? Our Ligue 1 preview will let you know why the 2019/20 could be the biggest and most unpredictable season of French football yet.
Key fixtures of the 2019/20 Ligue 1 season
This summer, the 2019/20 season kicks off with a typically gripping match between Monaco and Lyon on the evening of Friday 9 August. This will be followed up with a full Saturday of French football with interesting clashes such as Dijon hosting St Etienne, Stade Reims travelling to Marseille, and the Coupe de France winners Rennes playing away to Montpellier.
Paris Saint Germain’s first match takes place on Sunday 11 August where they entertain Nimes, whilst last season’s Ligue 1 runners-up, Lille, will host Nantes on the same day.
France’s most keenly anticipated game is usually Le Classique that sees Paris Saint Germain taking on Marseille. This match will take place in Paris on 26 August, whilst Marseille will ‘welcome’ PSG on 21 March.
Other key matches to look out for are the Choc des Olympique games between Lyon and Marseille that take place on 9 November and 18 April. In addition to this, the matches between Marseille and Saint Etienne are always hugely entertaining and these rivals face each other on 31 August and 5 February.
How Paris Saint Germain dominated the 2018/19 season
Paris Saint Germain won the 2018/19 Ligue 1 title a solid 16 points ahead of their nearest rivals, Lille, and the winning margin could have been much larger. PSG were at the top of the Ligue 1 table virtually from the start of the season, and claimed the title as early as the middle of April.
Thanks to 33 goals from the unstoppable Kylian Mbappe, and the excellent support from the likes of Neymar and Edinson Cavani, Paris Saint Germain claimed their third successive Ligue 1 title with ease. This featured a 21-game unbeaten streak that was only ended by Lyon on 3 February.
Lyon suffered a fairly inconsistent start to their Ligue 1 campaign, but eventually settled into familiar winning ways and earned a Champions League place behind Lille. Whilst Lille had been threatened with relegation just a couple of years ago, they had an excellent season and it’s going to be interesting to see where Christophe Galtier’s side goes from here.
Whilst Monaco have been a big force in French football recently, they suffered a shocker of a season and were lucky not to be relegated. After Thierry Henry was given his marching orders as head coach in January, the team struggled on and barely escaped having to join Caen and Guingamp in Ligue 2 football next season.
PSG set to win their third-successive Ligue 1 title
On paper, Paris Saint Germain should be on course to pick up another Ligue 1 title without too many problems. However, PSG aren’t like most other clubs and there’s already an endless flow of rumours and gossip that suggests that this classic French team aren’t going to make it easy for themselves.
Whilst Thomas Tuchel brought plenty of innovation and skill to his head coach role during his first season with PSG, his ongoing war with the club’s sporting director, Antero Henrique has been creating plenty of controversy. With squabbles over everything from player signings to the scandal about illegally profiling youth players, it seems that the Paris Saint Germain boardroom isn’t the best place to work.
Thankfully, Paris Saint Germain don’t have too many problems on the pitch. As long as you pretend to forget their horrifying 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Lille, their early Champions League exit, and their Coupe de France penalty shootout defeat, it seems like it’s business as usual at PSG.
All eyes will be on Kylian Mbappe to see if he can continue his epic goalscoring run and doesn’t get tempted into signing to Real Madrid. Plus with the likes of Edinson Cavani, Angel Di Maria and Julian Draxler in the ranks, it’s easy to see why the ‘beautiful mess’ of Paris Saint Germain could once again translate into league-winning glory.
Will losing Neymar affect Paris Saint Germain’s title hopes?
You can’t really talk about Paris Saint Germain without mentioning Neymar. Ever since the French club signed the Brazilian star for a record-breaking fee of £198 million, Neymar has been the player on everyone’s lips.
On the whole, Neymar has been a resounding success at PSG. With 34 goals in 37 appearances, it may seem like the Brazilian ace made the right move. But Neymar is always about much more than what happens on the pitch. As well as a series of niggling injuries, Neymar has had to endure controversies such as getting into altercations with fans, as well as getting banned as a result of insulting match officials.
At the moment, Neymar is the subject of endless rumours that he could be set to leave Paris Saint Germain to rejoin Barcelona. The fact that the striker didn’t bother turning up for the first day’s training doesn’t bode well, plus it’s evident that Neymar wants to play for a club with a better chance of claiming the Champions League title than PSG. But whether Barcelona are ready pay the exorbitant buy-out clause of the disruptive Brazilian star remains to be seen.
Lyon keen to claim their first title in over a decade
With the ongoing circus surrounding PSG, it’s easy to forget that French football isn’t a one horse race. Lyon will be working hard with their new manager, Sylvinho, to see if they can improve on their third-placed finish of last season.
However, it won’t be an easy task as Lyon will be missing key players like Tanguy Ndombele who left to join Tottenham, as well as Ferland Mendy who was sold to Real Madrid. So far, Lyon have attempted to fill these holes by buying the centre-back Joachim Andersen from Sampdoria, as well as Thiago Mendes from Lille.
Whilst Memphis Depay is having a much better time at Lyon than he did during his time at Manchester United, it remains to be seen whether Lyon have the firepower necessary to take on the likes of PSG.
Can Marseille conjure up past glories?
Although Marseille are one of France’s most fiercely supported teams, they’ve had a fairly barren run of form in Ligue 1 football of late. It’s been ten years since Marseille picked up the Ligue 1 title. But with new head coach, Andre Villas-Boas, in charge, there is hope that they could do better than last season’s top-five finish.
Whilst hopes were high that Dutch midfielder, Kevin Strootman, could recharge the team’s fortunes last season, he looks to be a candidate for leaving the club this summer. Plus with striker, Florian Thauvin, suffering a nasty injury in Marseille’s recent friendly clash against Rangers, it looks like it could be another uphill struggle for this legendary French club.
Lille set to be the Ligue 1 dark horses once more
Lille were one of the surprise packages of last season, and as long as they fend off Arsenal from signing their winger, Nicolas Pepe, there’s hope that they could once again cause some serious trouble for Paris Saint Germain.
Under the guidance of Christophe Galtier, Lille have emerged as a well-rounded side. With players like Jonathan Bamba and Jonathan Ikone in their ranks, it’s easy to see how Lille managed a credible second place in Ligue 1 football last season. But where they go from here is anybody’s guess.
Big changes required at Monaco
Monaco had a nightmare last season, but with Leonardo Jardim back in the head coach role, they will be expecting a real return to form. Look out for recent signing Gelson Martins from Atletico Madrid on the right wing, whilst the Colombian star, Radamel Falcao, is again expecting to be Monaco’s key man up front.
It remains to be seen how quickly Monaco can turn around their shocking form of last season. This is especially true after the club recently sold Youri Tielemens to Leicester City. But with a team of Monaco’s calibre, you can never write them off completely.