Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Ligue 1. Off and Running

I cannot believe that Ligue 1 has started already and that the Premiership and other European domestic leagues are just a week or so away from starting the festivities, whatever happened to an "off season"

So what does the beantown frog think of the new French domestic season?
Will PSG actually achieve something other then utter embarassement?
Can Lyon win a FIFTH ligue title?

So let us jump right in. While I would love to be able to disect each team, I have a wife and job and therefore not the limiteless time needed to do so, so I will just look at who I think are favorites and dark horses this season.

Favorites:

Lyon: How can you vote against them? Even if they lose Essien to Chelsea, which I think is inevitable, they are still stacked. Pedretti will be more than an adequete replacement. Diarra remains. The midfield will remain formidble. The addition of Carew gives them a big up front striker, that will give play makers like Wiltord room to roam. Their "small" 2-1 victory against Le Mans aside, this team is loaded for bear.

Monaco: Two seasons ago they were almost crown European Champions. While they have lost Rothen and Guily, Prso to name a few from that squad, this team remains one to watch. I think the addition of Kapo, Meriem (both players hungry to impress prior to the WC) and potentially of Saha (latest rumor out of Man U) will make this team very dangerous. With Deschamps at the helm they will give Lyon a real run for their money, now if only some fans would come to the stadium....

Lille: What can you say about this team that came out of no where last season to finish in second. I think such a run would be hard for this small market team. While you would be hard pressed to find any big names on the roster (as my lack of name dropping would make apparent) this team is stocked with players developed in house, much like the Auxerre and Nantes models of the 80s and 90s.

Marseilles: When it comes to French football, OM always comes into the picture, good or bad. But this team has underachieved the past few seasons. They have the talent, but for some reason do not have the mental edge to get to the next level. With players like Barthez, Lamouchi. and Luyindula they should achieve more. But if this past weekends 0-2 loss to Bordeaux at Stade Veledrome would indicate, they still have a long way to go. Their defense is shakey and they appear not to have a cohesive midfield, both of which will make their strike force hard pressed to score.

PSG: Ah yes, the beantown frog's hometown team....speaking of underachievers....but I think this year PSG will be much better. They should have a healthy Rothen, and have added playmaker Dhorasso to the mix. This should mean many more chances for serial scorer Pauleta up front. Their defense has had a season under their belt after the turmoil of losing Heinze and Dehu. The addition of Kalu from Auxerre will also revitalize the midfield.

St Eteinne: Just like OM, one cannot mention French Football without StEtienne. No one will mistaken this team for the glory teams of the 70s that had Platini and Rochteau carving up defenses, with players like Janvion in defense. But this team did some serious damage second half of last seaon. Beginning of the year they looked destined for relegation, only to fight their way back into the top 10 and then by seasons end into a place in the intertoto...they too are young and are a team to watch.

Bordeaux: Again one of those legendary french teams, but like St Eteinne this is not the 1980s team with Tigana, Giresse, Battiston, Lacombe etc. But they have added some talent with European Club Champion Smicer and Cheyrou to the fold. They are always a dangerous team, and with the addition of Ricardo as trainer I think they can have a good season.

So these are some of the teams I think will be there in the end. My predictions for the the season:

  1. PSG - had to go with my home town team. I think that Lyon is strong this season but that PSGs midfield will carry them to a Ligue 1 title, remember that two seasons ago they finished a strong second place.
  2. Lyon - a Fifth straight title would be incredible, they have the horses but will fall short, lots of football in this team's legs, and I think that they will be more focused on going further in Europe, something they have the talent to do.
  3. Monaco - Deschamps is a solid coach and the addition of players like Kapo and Meriem will make this a dangerous team.
  4. St Eteinne - My surprise team. Seeing how they finished last season and the young talent I think they are poised to make a run at a top 5 finish.
  5. Lille - Last year was no fluke but they will fall back a little.
  6. Bordeaux - Struggled last season but should have some stability with Smicer in the midfield, but not enough talent to crack the top 5, still in transition.
  7. Marseilles - While I would like to predict them lower (again there is my PSG bias), this team has too much talent on paper to be bad. But they will struggle to find an identity this season and that will cost them.

This should be another memorable season in Ligue 1, I think it will be interesting to see if Lyon can go deeper in European football and if PSG can live up to my hype!

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