2016 – 2017 was a very entertaining season, with Nice imposing the rhythm in the first part, and Monaco and PSG stepping on the gas after the winter break. We all hope the new season will be even more disputed, but most probably it will be dominated by Monaco and PSG. At first let’s say a few words about the other teams that will compete for a place in Europe: Lyon: If you follow Ligue 1, you surely know the defensive phase is by far Lyon’s major weakness. Last season fullbacks concentrated exclusively on the attacking phase, and it wasn’t very difficult for opponents to take Lyon by surprise. Only experienced defensive midfielder Gonalons provided assistance once in a while. That is why in-spite finishing 4th, Lyon were 10th when it came to goals conceded. Gonalons transferred at Roma now, and it will be interesting to see how Lyon will cope with his absence. Besides Gonalons, Lyon also lost midfielders Tolisso, Valbuena, and top scorer Lacazette. Lyon transferred-in a few high profile attacking minded players: Marcal, Traore and Mariano Diaz. Fullback Marcal came from Guingamp, where he was a constant presence in the attacking phase. In-fact Marcal was Guingamp’s best passer with 7 assists. Striker Traore arrived from Chelsea, while Dominican forward Mariano came from Real Madrid. Lyon also transferred a central defender, who is not afraid to advance, and usually scores a few goals each season. Marcelo arrived from Besiktas where he found the net 3 times last season. He scored 7 goals at most in a single season, while playing for Wisla Krakow in 2009. Even if Lacazette and Valbuena are gone, you should still expect to see goals when Lyon play (even their central defenders will score goals). Marseille: Marseille was one of the most inconsistent sides last season. They easily went from one extreme to the other, from creating 20 opportunities in a single game, to barely having a decent attempt on target. One possible explanation is that they relied on some of the most “difficult” players in France. Thauvin, Payet and Gomis were by far Marseille’s most important players last season. All of them are very individualistic, difficult to motivate and usually have a superstar attitude (this is why all of them failed in Premier League). On home ground they were more determined, more combative, but in away games they always gave up after losing the ball. Maybe this is why Marseille won only 4 away games last season. Now they will once again rely primarily on wingers Thauvin and Payet… Striker Gomis is at Galatasaray now, while experienced forward Germain arrived from Monaco. Germain seems like the best option for playing between wingers Thauvin and Payet. He is always at the right place, has great ball control and was respected by teammates everywhere he went. Marseille transferred-in another two important players: defender Adil Rami from Sevilla and defensive midfielder Luiz Gustavo from Wolfsburg. Both of them are reputed players with proved skills, and most probably will have a guaranteed place in the lineup. Keep an eye on midfielders Lopez and Sanson. They try to take charge when Payet and Thauvin refuse to participate. Sanson was Ligue 1’s best passer last season with 12 assist, while Lopez delivered 6 assists. You should expect Marseille to crush many opponents on home ground (cover the handicap), but once again to have major difficulties in away games. Nice: Nice was a pleasant surprise last season, especially before the winter break. They were very courageous and inventive, but unfortunately the squad was thin and some reserves were at Ligue 2 level. There wasn’t anybody to replace striker Balotelli when he was injured or suspended, nobody to replace midfielders Belhanda and Seri, or fullbacks Dalbert and Pereira. Nice were also very unfortunate, as many players suffered frequent injuries. Talented striker Plea for example was injured for most of the season, same as midfielder Le Bihan. Nice have an exuberant playing style, a few highly skilled players (Balotelli, Seri, Plea), but no depth. This summer they lost fullback Pereira and midfielder Belhanda, both of them important players. Most probably they will also lose winger Eysseric, as many European sides are after him. Without a few important transfers, Nice won’t be able to repeat last season’s performance. So far only experienced fullback Jallet arrived from Lyon. As the season progresses, Nice will lose energy and will have difficulties coping with determined opponents, especially since they will also be involved in European competitions. Bordeaux: Overall Bordeaux had a decent season, even if they increased rhythm only after the winter break. Defenders are very agile and it is extremely difficult for opponents to take them by surprise. This summer Bordeaux lost important keeper Carrasso, but immediately replaced him with Costil from Rennes, who was considered one of the best keepers in Ligue 1 a few seasons ago. Skilled fullback Mendy also arrived from Guingamp. Mendy is a versatile and solid player, with great vision and ball control. He even managed to score 3 goals for Guingamp last season. Fullbacks Sabaly, Mendy and Contento are very powerful players, and they can easily give Bordeaux an edge over many opponents. Bordeaux’s midfield also looks very good, with experienced Toulalan in the center providing constant assistance for defenders, and skilled Sankhare initiating attacking actions. The only problem seems to be in the attacking phase, as although there are plenty of options, they don’t have a striker with killer instincts. Last season they used a 4-3-3 system, but all forwards felt better in the winger position. In comparison to last season, Bordeaux lost forward Ounas who went to Napoli. Bordeaux made a great deal, since Ounas wasn’t an important player, and hopefully the transfer fee will be put to good use (1o million euro). The only attacking player who arrived so far is versatile winger Wellington from Fluminense. He’s got European experience (England Championship and La Liga), but unfortunately so far he never delivered according to expectations. Bordeaux can easily end up fighting for the 3rd place, especially if they will eventually find a solid striker. Expect Bordeaux to be able to put together impressive series of positive results. St Etienne: Statistics perfectly illustrate St Etienne’s season: 12 wins – 14 draws – 12 defeats. There is nothing special about St Etienne. Although they usually keep possession, they always struggle to create chances and find the net, even on home ground. They have a new coach now, Spaniard Oscar Garcia from Salzburg. He is very experienced and should add value at St Etienne. But first things first, they need new and talented players in all departments. Until now there is only one notable transfer, striker Diony from Dijon, but the fee paid is simply huge (around 10 million euro). Without reinforcements St Etienne won’t be able to compete for European positions, and will once again be just a mediocre Ligue 1 side. Lille: Lille were a major disappointment last season. Only late in the season they managed to escape the relegation zone, after making a few impressive transfers in January. So far they lost two important players, fullback Corchia and forward Lopes, and it will be really difficult for Lille to find replacements, especially since they are wasting money on mediocre players. They bought forward Pepe from Angers with 10 million euro (mostly on the bench last season). He is a decent player, but certainly not worth that much, regardless his age (only 21). Fullback Malcuit arrived from St Etienne for a huge fee (around 9 million euro). He was a major vulnerability for St Etienne last season, and it’s no coincidence that most of the goals conceded by St Etienne originated from the flanks. It seems that Lille is Ligue 1’s new cash cow. Another disappointing season shouldn’t be excluded, and Lille may once again finish in the lower half of the table. Taking all the above in consideration, this is how the table may look (only the first 5 places, without PSG and Monaco): 1. … 2. … 3. Bordeaux 4. Marseille 5. Lyon From all contenders for European positions, Bordeaux seem to be the most consistent. Bordeaux to finish top 3 at around 13.00. You can also find Bordeaux to finish top 4 at around 5.50, if you want extra safety. Please note the transfer window will close at the end of August, so there is still time for all sides to strengthen.