Here are the teams I see finishing in the top 5:
Stade Rennaise FC: The club from Brittany finished in the top 10 last year. They did lose the likes of Sow and Briand during the off season so why do I see them getting into the top5? I actually think losing Briand will not be as bad for the squad, not that the player is not talented. However he was injured most of last season, tallying only 5 goals for the side. I think Rennes has always been waiting for him to live up to his enormous potential and has held back the
Girondins de Bordeaux: The
3rd Place - Lille Olympique Sporting Club Lille Métropole: The club from northern France finished 4th last season with a league leading 72 goals for. Add to this offensive powerhouse, former France U19
Spartak or to the EPL, if he does move on how LOSC leverages those funds will determine if they can achieve a 3rd place. I do think that Sow will provide some cover but LOSC will have to find another player to replace some of that offensive punch if Gervinho departs, €20 million would make that somewhat easier! I think that the Belgium wonder kid - Hazard - should be with Lille for at least this season, but he clearly has many of the big named clubs very interesting in getting the new Enzo Scifo. I think that Hazard's value, baring injury, will only go up. However with Gervinho, his value will never be as high as it is post World Cup. In addition Blanc pre-called up 5 players from Lille, and not including Landreau and you have a very strong core of players to build on for the season. Look for Mavuba to have another strong campaign, I think the international door being reopened to the fiery midfielder will only add to his motivation. The core remains and if they can weather the rest of the transfer season and ensure they have the right pieces in place, they have a legitimate change at making a run at a top 2 spot this season.
Olympique Marseilles: The defending champion will not repeat. Granted maybe this has as much to do with my loyalties to PSG as to the fact I think OM will not repeat the season they enjoyed last year. However it will be a close race. Much will depend on if OM can find the same offensive punch they had last season with Niang, Gonzalez, Valbeuna and Brandao. OM finished second to LOSC in goals scored - 69 to 72. It appears the OM captain, Niang might be out the door. This would be a big mountain for OM to climb to fill this
Some other thoughts:
Teams that will be relegated: Sochaux, AC Arles-Avignon and St Etienne.
Player of the year: Pjanic - the Lyon midfielder will only get better and will clearly be the main cog in the Lyon midfield. Will also make the Bosnian national
Manager of the year: Puel. The Lyon manager is much maligned since he is the first in a long time not to win the title for Lyon. That will change this season. The
Glad to see Ligue 1 starting up this Saturday, not happy still that Setanta went out of business in North America...they were a great resource for watching Ligue 1 games. Another good write up on Ligue 1 from ESPN as well. Thankfully I still have TV5 but that means only 1 game a week!