French Football - 2018/19 Ligue 1 Preview & Predictions
The 2018-19 Ligue 1 season kicks off on Friday 10th August and begins another nine months of competition in French football’s top division. Paris St Germain will defend their title after romping to the crown last season.
AS Monaco and Olympique Lyonnais look set to challenge Les Parisiens at the top with another half dozen clubs all likely to be in the mix for a top-six finish. French football is in the midst of a renaissance and Ligue 1 2018-19 looks like being filled with thrills.
Last Season in Ligue 1
2017-18 was a return to ‘business as usual’ after Monaco’s plucky title win the previous season. PSG blew everyone else away and finished 13 points clear at the top. But there was enough about Lyon, Monaco and Marseille to show they’re steadily making enough ground to challenge once again in the Ligue 1 title race.
PSG’s signing of global superstar Neymar last summer stimulated a level of interest and investment not seen for some time in French football's top tier. The Brazilian attacker was simply brilliant hitting nearly a goal a game but the division as a whole has a renewed ultra-competitive look to it going into 2018-19.
If Ligue 1 had developed a reputation for turgid defensive football in recent years, last term marked a new-found entertaining impetus. The season saw the highest number of goals for 25 years with over 1,000 scored, and snore-draws went right out of fashion. Back in 2013-14, France’s top tier played out three times as many nil-nil games as the Bundesliga. Last season, the number was less than every other top league in European football.
Race For the 2018-19 Ligue 1 Title
No surprises at the bookies with PSG hot favourites to retain the league title, but Les Parisiens begin the campaign with a new manager at the helm. Last season’s title-winning boss Unai Emery has joined Arsenal with Thomas Tuchel set to make his debut in the Parc des Princes dugout come August.
The first Le Classique between Paris St Germain and bitter rivals Marseille takes place in late October by which time we should have some idea of whether Tuchel can keep PSG ticking on towards another title. Whether the chasing pack can launch a real assault on top spot depends very much on their abilities in the transfer market this summer.
Monaco are tipped to be PSG’s main contender for the Ligue 1 crown, though the stars of the Stade Louis II look like being plundered as the European transfer window heats up. Fabinho has already joined Liverpool and Thomas Lemar is off to Atletico Madrid.
English Premier League clubs have made regular raids across the channel in recent years, none more so than to Lyon who have a pedigree for churning out world-class players. This summer, assets like Nabil Fekir and Houssem Aouar are being greedily eyed by English suitors. They could yet follow the likes of Alexandre Lacazette and Hugo Lloris in making the journey from the Groupma Stadium to the Premier League.
Challenge for European Football
If the title race looks a little one-sided, a whole host of clubs are set to battle for a top-six finish and this will be where the excitement lies in Ligue 1 next season.
Olympique Marseille are slowly recovering from years in the doldrums and are fresh from a Europa League final appearance. After a few so-so seasons, Les Phocéens are back among French football’s finest under the tutelage of Rudi García. Florian Thauvin has enjoyed a rebirth at the Stade Vélodrome after a dismal time at Newcastle and was one of the best attacking players in Europe last season.
Bordeaux finished the last campaign strongly to sneak sixth spot ahead of Saint-Étienne, though Les Girondins have lost Brazilian maestro Malcom, who joined Spanish Football giants Barcelona. Gus Poyet still has plenty to prove as manager after disappointing spells in China and Spain and that ambition, coupled with fresh funds, could establish the club as real top six force.
As for Saint-Étienne, they may have missed out on European Football this season, but the management team of Jean-Louis Gasset and Julien Sable possess the potential to be a great combo assuming any summer takeover of Les Verts does not bring with it a dug-out restructure.
Battle to Avoid Relegation From Ligue 1
Following the trends seen in many of European football’s top leagues right now, around half of Ligue 1 could get sucked into a relegation battle as the season progresses.
Amiens, Angers, Strasbourg and Lille are likely to be hovering around the lower reaches of the table once again with newly promoted Nîmes and Reims facing tricky starts away from home. Their seasons are not likely to get any easier from there on in.
Ligue 1 Players to Watch This Season
Expect plenty of movement in the transfer market involving French football’s biggest stars. Neymar, Cavani and Mbappe are PSG’s household names, but elsewhere talent is spread among the rest of the league.
Amongst the breakthrough talent, keep an eye out for Luiz Araujo of Lille and Boubacar Kamara of Marseille, though each of them could yet be tempted to the English Premier League. For more players to keep your eye on this season, take a look at Bet UK's guide to French Football's Best Players.
Bet UK will be covering everything to do with European Football this season, including news and updates from the Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A. Get odds and markets on all Ligue 1 matches this year with online betting at Bet UK.