Ligue 1 preview

Ligue 1 preview

And so it returns, the one that made the world wait. After nearly five and a half months of starvation, the league that did not complete returns with its next edition of domestic football. The home of world champions will have weekly football of Ligue 1 2020-21 commencing August 21 onward.

For the rest of France, the league’s 2019-20 edition was a season that was, and yet wasn’t. Curtailed and desisted in the wake of the pandemic never to return, it was the only domestic league out of Europe’s top five not to have reached a natural conclusion. Now, first to start, the French league will get maximum breathing space ahead of France’s biggest summer since winning the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Strangely enough, the defending champions will not be around to welcome Ligue 1’s belated homecoming as – in the improvisation of the pandemic-stricken normalcy – Paris Saint-Germain are still busy pursuing a potentially glory-laden European commitment of the previous season.

In the absence of the biggest fish, it would thus be rather fitting had the league kickstarted at Stade Vélodrome in the southern coastal city of Marseille where the only three things that matter to locals are – sun, sea and l’Olympique Marseille. But the opening fixture between Les Phocéens and St Etienne has been postponed after four payers from André Villas-Boas’s squad tested positive for COVID-19.

Sidestepping hurdles galore, Ligue 1’s restart will now be inaugurated by two teams that finished level on points last season, Bordeaux and Nantes. So, with more than 200 player movements, here are some predictions on possible league positions and players to watch out for.

Ligue 1 champions – PSG look good for number 10

The defending champions look good to remain in pole position and win their 10th domestic league title as they are a runaway powerhouse in Ligue 1. Boasting of world class talent all across the pitch, the Parisien side – with Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi and Angel Di Maria among others – will take some stopping. While nothing is never unachievable in football, if PSG are to finish below top spot, it would have been one of the most thrilling title challenges in the history of the league. And one that would go down to the wire.

Champions League qualifiers – Lyon, Marseille and Monaco

Runners-up Marseille will be in the hunt for a Champions League spot, but they will have to build a more cohesive system in order to replicate their exploits. Villas-Boas likes his teams to press the opposition into errors before launching counters but was highly dependent on individual brilliance rather than a systematic attacking system last season.

Key Players: For Marseille to have a good season, they would need the likes of Morgan Sanson, Maxime Lopez, Dario Benedetto, Dimitri Payet, Leonardo Balerdi and Boubacar Kamara to give generous returns.

Lyon finished a lowly seventh in the league last season. But the Memphis Depay-led side would be quick to point out that their form in the Champions League is a fairer reflection of their ability. The captain has 6 goals in the European tournament and with no continental commitments in what would be a shortened season than usual, Lyon look primed to be title challengers in chief.

Key Players: Rudi Garcia’s men have plenty of talent on offer with the likes of Houssem Aouar, Maxence Caqueret, Maxwel Cornet, Moussa Dembele and Depay raring to set the wrongs of last season right.

Monaco is the only team to have interrupted the PSG stronghold on the domestic title when the high-flyers including Mbappe, Bernardo Silva and Fabinho – who have all gone on to win league titles elsewhere – finished at the summit in 2016-17. Niko Kovac’s men squeezed into the top half last season but were a team looking to rebuild.

Key Players: If Monaco are to do well, they would depend on new signings Radoslaw Majecki and Axel Disasi to guard the defensive fort with Cesc Fabregas assuming creative lead along with Aleksandr Golovin. Wissam Ben Yedder and Stevan Jovetic would be the key men upfront.

Relegation Battle: Dijon, Nimes, Lorient

Dijon is a decent defensive outfit but are rather toothless moving forward which could be the architect of their downfall in the upcoming season. If they are to survive the relegation battle, they would require loan return Enzo Loiodice and Mounir Chouiar – who completed more 70 per cent of attempted dribbles – to provide inspiration.

Nimes were lucky to survive relegation last season as they were in the playoff positions to go down but survived courtesy of the curtailed season. They had a brief run of good form in the previous campaign but do not look likely to sustain that in order to survive.

Newly promoted Lorient have a rather impressive style of play – intense pressing off the ball and on it, a pastiche of Johan Cryuff’s possession-based style. But Ligue 1 is massive step up from Ligue 2 and given their lack of top-quality players to carry out the style against superior oppositions, they might find it difficult to stay up.

Players to watch out for – Fantasy team hidden gems and hacks

The usual suspects – Neymar, Mbappe, Di Maria, Payet, etc – are bound to perform well but what about some of the names one might not have heard of? Here are some players who could have a fantastic season and thus, would be clever picks for your fantasy teams.

Goalkeepers:

  • Predrag Rajkovic – RFT Base Price – 5.5. The Reims goalkeeper collected maximum points for his position in the league last season with 12 clean sheets.
  • Radoslaw Majecki – RFT Base Price – 4.5. The Monaco keeper is a new addition to the league and could be the surprise package with former Reims defender Axel Disasi protecting him.

Defenders:

  • Fabien Centonze – RFT Base Price – 5.5. The Metz full back scored the highest points for his position with attacking contributions aplenty and is a must-have option as he plays every game for his team.
  • Julien Faussurier – RFT Base Price – 6. Aided by Brest’s own rendition of Tiki Taka, the right back has directly been involved in 14 per cent of all league goals for Brest in 2019-20. Furthermore, he was booked only once throughout the season.
  • Alexander Djiku – RFT Base Price – 5.5. Although a central defender by trade, the Strasbourg man can play in defensive midfield as well as right back.
  • Axel Disasi – RFT Base Price – 5.5. The former Reims man had a breakthrough season in 2019-20 and was snapped up by Monaco to be a mainstay in their defence.
  • Facundo Medina – RFT Base Price – 5. The newly acquired Lens defender can play at left back and centre back. He is a quick, good in the air and can step out with the ball or play it out from the back with equal ease. He has 5.14 interceptions and 11.52 ball recoveries per game along with a passing accuracy percentage of 85.02.

Midfielders:

  • Baptiste Santamaria – RFT Base Price – 6. The Angers midfielder started every game in central midfield for Angers and was the highest points scorer for his position last season.
  • Eduardo Camavinga – RFT Base Price – 4.5 At just 17, the Rennes midfielder is already an ever present in the heart of midfield. Touted as the next big thing, he is a steal at his price.
  • Ludovic Blas – RFT Base Price – 4.5. The Nantes midfielder directly contributed to 25 per cent of his team’s league goals last season and is a steal at his price.
  • Zinedine Ferhat – RFT Base Price – 5. The Nimes man can play on the right and behind the front man. He contributed to 24 per cent of his team’s goals, placing behind Payet and Di Maria for his position.
  • Nicolas de Preville – RFT Base Price – 5.5. The attacking player from Bordeaux scores very highly because of his contributions in the final third which saw him account for contributing to a quarter of all his team’s goals last season.
  • Jonathan David – RFT Base Price – 5. The Lille attacking midfielder had 18 goals and 8 assists in 27 appearances for Gent in the Belgian top division. He is an absolute must have.

Strikers:

  • Irvin Cardona – RFT Base Price – 4.5. The Brest forward is an excellent economic buy with his team playing a good brand of football and him contributing to 27 per cent of goals with 6 finishes and 3 assists in 21 appearances.
  • Boulaye Dia – RFT Base Price – 5.5. The Reims man is another economic option as he scored 7 goals and provided 1 assist apart from contributing with many key passes.

About the Writer:

Arinjay Ghosh: A content guy with technical background and commercial outlook, perpetually trying to create what sells.

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