Ligue 1 preview

Here is Ligue 1, the poorest relation supposedly of Europe’s big five leagues, taking a big name Argentine playmaker from Serie A with his brightest years ahead of him. And reportedly for about £35 million.

Paris St. Germain are the club whom Pastore will be lining up for next season, and he will do so alongside Jeremy Menez, Blaise Matuidi, Kevin Gameiro and Milan Bisevac as the club look to at least reach the Champions League, but also push for the title.

But what of the team who actually won Ligue 1 last year? Lille have been undergoing a semi-rebuilding job, bringing in Dimitri Payet and Benoit Pedretti from St. Etienne and Auxerre respectively. They replace the departed Gervinho and Yohan Cabaye, whilst Adil Rami has also gone back to Valencia. Vincent Enyeama arrives as back up in goal, whilst Marko Basa should be a good addition at the back, with David Rozenhal and Laurent Bonnart arriving to add increased defensive reassurance.

Last year’s runners up Marseille lost Taye Taiwo at the end of last season to AC Milan, with Alou Diarra their main signing from Bordeaux. A good player, he will add strength and leadership, as well as crucial experience to the midfield. But Didier Deschamps’ men will need to score more this season to regain the title; he will hope for a better return from Andre-Pierre Gignac, Loic Remy and Andre Ayew than that gleaned last season.

Oh, and there is a team who have qualified for their thirteenth European Champions League campaign in a row with ambitions of lifting the title. Olympique Lyonnais fired coach Claude Puel at the end of last season and replaced him with reserve coach Remi Garde. With no major signings and the departure of Jeremy Toulalan to Malaga, Garde has a tough task to keep the club in the Champions League spots, let alone to win the league, as some bookmakers believe his team is the favourite for.

It should be a fascinating title race at the top, but elsewhere ambitions are less lofty. Girondins de Bordeaux will hope to improve on last year’s seventh place finish, but have made few significant additions in the wake of Diarra’s departure. FC Sochaux lost manager Francois Gillot to Bordeaux, and they will be happy with a repeat of last year after finishing fifth. Rennes too will look for a repeat of last year’s sixth place finish, but the loss of key players such as Nicolas Douchez and Sylvain Marveaux will hit them hard. They have bought well but have not signed a prolific forward, their Achilles heel position last term.

Elsewhere St. Etienne will look to life after key men Blaise Matuidi and Dimitri Payet this season but Cristophe Galtier will have a tough job fighting for the title, and Toulouse will be optimistic after making a series of impressive signings, splashing out on Umut Bulut and Emmanuel Riviere.

At the bottom Auxerre will have a struggle to stay in the division after losing manager Jean Fernandez and a host of key players last season. Similarly Valenciennes and Montpellier have been weakened after a summer of intense transfer activity and will be looking for mid table security.

New boys AJ Ajaccio, Dijon and Evian have all brought in a number of players in a bid to stay in the division and avoid repeating Arles-Avignon’s traumatic campaign last time around. Evian in particular have spent well, bringing in Sidney Govou and Jonathan Mensah among others.

Last year Ligue 1 was exceptionally competitive at the top and bottom, with a host of teams leading the title race until Lille took over in the second half of the season. And at the bottom, seven teams went into the final day mathematically in a position to go down.

Another closely fought season lies in store, but most intriguing will be to see how PSG’s new signings change the picture at the top of the table, and whether little Evian can pull off a miracle and remain in the division.