UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Barcelona draw Milan, Ronaldo to face United
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Monaco will change goalkeper and defence but in ofensive part they are strong..there are regular midfielders and deadly attacking duo Germain (5/3) and Toure (5/6)
Le groupe asémiste
Gardiens : Caillard, Sourzac
Défenseurs : Adriano, Appiah, Kagelmacher, Kurzawa, Labor, Phojo, Tzavellas
Milieux : Bajrami, Coulibaly, Dingomé, Dirar, Mendy, Poulsen
Attaquants : Germain, Touré
Gardiens : Arnaud Balijon, Maxime Hautbois, Mike Vanhamel.
Défenseurs : Gaëtan Belaud, Pierre Talmont, Simon Falette, Makan Traoré, Lindsay Rose, Kévin Perrot.
Milieux : Anthony Gonçalves, Yohan Betsch, Vincent Le Baron, Ludovic Gamboa, Bilal Hamdi, Oscar Ewolo
Attaquants : Julien Viale, Fabrice Do Marcolino
Missing : Lhadji Badiane (blessé), Renaud Dreuslin, Romain Ciaravino, Ghislain Gimbert (blessé), Jérôme Lebouc, Jordan Adéoti, Martin Mimoun, Corentin Rocu, César Lolohéa et Ousmane Traoré.
Sorin, Léon, Acapandié, Hengbart, Coulibaly, Ndong, Ebanéga, Jullien, Rivieyran, Mandjeck, Meïté, Segbéfia, Le Tallec, Ntep, Oliech, Langil, Makengo.
FC Midtjylland vs Young Boys Bern
Rasmus Christensen(mid), Morten Koch Nielsen(def), Hassan Rilwan(sp)(att), Marco Larsen(att)
Doubtful: Izunna Uzochukwu(r)(mid), Tim Janssen(sp)(att), Oliver Korch(sp)(gk)
Anzhi vs AZ Alkmaar
Celso Ortiz(sp)(mid), Thomas Lam(sp)(def), Ali Messaoud (sp)(mid)
Gabulov – Logashov, Samba, Joao Carlos, Tagirbekov – Boussoufa, Jucilei, Carcela-Gonzales, Zhirkov – Eto’o, Traore
Alvarado, Marcellis, Viergever, Gorter, Moisander, Maher, Falkenburg, Martens, Elm, Altidore, Beerens
Tromso IL vs Partizan
Tromso full squad
Partizan: Milos Ostojic(r)(def), Branko Pauljevic(def), Marko Scepovic(r)(att), Eduardo Pacheco(sp)(att)
Doubtful: Sasa Ilic(r)(mid), Nemanja Tomic(k)(mid), Lazar Markovic(r)(att)
Rested: Zvonimir Vukic(r)(mid), Mohammad Zaabia(att)
AIK vs CSKA Moscow
Robert Åhman-Persson(r)(mid), Alexander Milosevic(r)(def), Daniel Majstorovic(def), Henok Goitom(att), Robin Quaison(sp)(mid)
Seydou Doumbia(k)(att), Tomas Necid(sp)(att)
Legia Warsaw vs Rosenborg BK
Unavailable Rafał Wolski(sp)(mid), Jorge Salinas(sp)(mid)
Molde vs Heerenveen
Emmanuel Epko(r)(mid), Even Hovland(sp)(def)
Christian Kum(sp)(def), Mark Uth(sp)(att), Alfred Finnbogason(sp)(att), Jukka Raitala(r)(def)
Feyenoord vs AC Sparta Prague
Mitchell Te Vrede(sp)(att), John Goossens(r)(mid), Stefan de Vrij(r)(def)
Sparta full squad
Sheriff vs Olympique Marseille
Benoit Cheyrou(sp)(mid), Souleymane Diawara(r)(def), Leyti N’Diaye(def), Andre Ayew(r)(att)
Rested: Cesar Azpilicueta(r)(def)
Bursaspor vs FC Twente
Bekir Sevgi(gk), Ibrahim Kas(sp)(def), Emre Pehlivan(sp)(mid), Baris Orucu(sp)(mid)
FC Luzern vs Racing Genk
Dejan Sorgic(att), Sally Sarr(r)(def)
Jeroen Simaeys(r)(def), Elianiv Barda(r)(mid), Ayub Masika(sp)(att), Torben Joneleit(sp)(def), David Hubert(r)(mid)
Trabzonspor vs Videoton
Tolga Zengin(r)(gk), Tayfun Cora(sp)(def), Marek Cech(r)(def), Baris Atas(sp)(mid), Emre Gural(sp)(att)
Doubtful: Souleymane Bamba(r)(def), Soner Aydogdu(r)(mid), Halil Altintop(r)(att)
Vaslui vs Internazionale
Cristian Chivu(sp)(def), Antonio Cassano(r)(att), Soares Julio Cesar(r)(gk), Samir Handanovic(k)(gk), Dejan Stankovic(sp)(mid), Joel Chukwuma Obi(sp)(mid), Ricardo Gabriel Álvarez(sp)(att), McDonald Mariga(sp)(mid), Walter Gargano(r)(mid)
Doubtful: Philippe Coutinho(sp)(mid)
Slask Wroclaw vs Hannover
Mame Biram Diouf(sp)(att)
Motherwell vs Levante
Steven Saunders(sp)(def), Simon Ramsden(r)(def)
Juanfran(r)(def), Pedro Rios(r)(mid), Dariusz Dudka(sp)(mid), Papakouli Diop(r)(mid)
Red Star Belgrade vs Girondins de Bordeaux
Filip Kasalica(r)(att), Cadu M.(r)(mid), Evandro Goebel(k)(mid)
Carlos Henrique(r)(def), Andre Biyogo Poko(mid), Abdou Traore(sp)(mid), David Bellion(sp)(att), Kevin Olimpa(sp)(gk), Matthieu Chalme(sp)(def)
Athletic Bilbao vs HJK Helsinki
Fernando Amorebieta(r)(def), Jon Aurtenetxe(r)(def)
Rested Fernando Llorente(k)(att), Javier Martinez(k)(mid)
Akseli Pelvas(sp)(att), Joel Pohjanpalo(sp)(att)
Zeta vs PSV Eindhoven
Ivanovic (k)(gk), Brnovic (sp)(gk)
Erik Pieters(sp)(def), Orlando Engelaar(sp)(mid)
ND Mura vs Lazio
Fabijan Cipot(r)(def), Dragan Jelic(r)(att)
Juan Pablo Carrizo(sp)(gk), Ederson(r)(mid), Cristian Brocchi(r)(mid), Francelino Matuzalem(sp)(mid), Giuseppe Sculli(sp)(att), Luciano Zauri(sp)(def), Pasquale Foggia(sp)(mid), Modibo Diakite(sp)(def), Alvaro Gonzalez(sp)(mid), Stefan Radu(r)(def)
AC Horsens vs Sporting CP
Alexander Juel Andersen(r)(def), Jeppe Mehl(sp)(mid), Soren Jensen(sp)(def), Lasse Jorgensen(r)(mid)
Oguchi Onyewu(sp)(def), Danijel Pranjic(sp)(mid), Fabian Rinaudo(sp)(mid), Marat Izmailov(k)(mid), Valentin Viola(sp)(att), Wilson Eduardo(sp)(att)
CS Maritimo vs FC Dila Gori
Ruben Ferreira(r)(def), Olberdam(r)(mid)
Atromitos vs Newcastle United
Atromitos full team
Hatem Ben Arfa(r)(mid), Fabricio Coloccini(r)(def), Shola Ameobi(sp)(att), Shane Ferguson(sp)(mid), Haris Vuckic(sp)(mid), Sammy Ameobi(sp)(att)
Rested Cheik Tiote(r)(mid), Demba Ba(r)(att)
Newcastle United march back into Europe tonight after a five year break and some interesting (!) times in that period.
Our opponents in the two-legged Europa League Fourth Qualifying Round are Greek side Atromitos FC from Athens and the match kicks off at their 10,000 capacity stadium at
8pm local time (6pm Uk time), when incidentally the temperatures will still be in the thirties!.
A nineteen man squad flew out to Greece yesterday;
Romain Amalfitano, Vurnon Anita, Gael Bigirimana, Yohan Cabaye, Adam Campbell, Papiss Cisse, Dan Gosling, Jonas Gutierrez, Steve Harper, Tim Krul, Sylvain Marveaux, Gabriel Obertan, James Perch, Davide Santon, Danny Simpson, James Tavernier, Ryan Taylor, Steven Taylor, Mike Williamson
Due to tricky and expensive travel arrangements there is unlikely to be a big travelling contingent with only a small amount of United’s official 500 tickets reportedly sold.
For those at home, you’ll be able to watch it on Premier Sports (Sky TV channel 428)….or hopefully your local pub.
A possible very strong team could be along the lines of the following though you’d assume that with Chelsea in mind less than 48 hours after the final whistle, we’ll see at least a few of our elite warming the bench…not that it will need warming up in this heat!
Krul, Simpson, Steven Taylor, Perch, Santon, Obertan, Jonas, Anita, Cabaye, Marveaux, Cisse
The following five matches have already been confirmed as televised live, with no doubt many more to follow.
A big interest (leaving aside the all important result for the moment) for the majority who haven’t seen him as yet, could be the likely appearance of teenage striking sensation Adam Campbell at some point.
After scoring a first half hat-trick against their Spurs rivals at the weekend, what better time to blood him on the European stage.
I think most of us will be expecting a relatively comfortable passage through to the group stage but I’m sure Alan Pardew will not be complacent in any way.
Always potential danger when facing a team you know little about but surely Newcastle should have too much for them over the two legs and fingers crossed, put it away tonight. Especially as a tribute to those who have made the expensive journey from Tyneside.
Faty (mid) (Aris FC), Diarra (mid) (FC Lorient), Deville (def) (RSC Anderlecht), Belghazouani (mid) (SV Zulte Waregem), Sissoko (gk) (FC Metz)
Socrier (sp)(att) (Angers SCO), Ilan (sp)(att) (SC Bastia), N’Diaye (def) (Marseille), Oberhauser (gk), Cilia (def), Debes (sp)(gk), Gigliarelli (gk) (GFC Ajaccio)
Ajaccio exceeded expectations last season by successfully defending their place in the French top flight. They were very poor in the first half of the season, showing a lack of consistency and organisation, but after Christmas their fortunes changed drastically. Despite this, they have jettisoned head coach Olivier Pantaloni, allowing former Brest coach Alex Dupont to benefit from the momentum gained last term. Dupont’s Brest sides were based around a strong defensive foundation, and it is hard to imagine that he will transform Ajaccio into an exciting attacking side, particularly given the tools at his disposal. None of the key members of the squad from last season have left the squad, while the unit would appear to have been marginally strengthened over the course of the summer. Deville arrives from Anderlecht to strengthen the defence, while Ricardo Faty, a player never to reach his true potential, will add more weight to the midfield. In terms of attacking options, Eduardo will shoulder much of the goalscoring burden after a useful conclusion to last season, but the Brazilian has never been a reliable long-term solution in Ligue 1 and goals will have to arrive from elsewhere, too, particularly as Ilan has left to join island rivals Bastia, with whom the derbies will be particularly fierce. Key at the back will be Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, whose calibre is far above the level of the team around him. Last season he was not well protected, but this time around it must be expected that Dupont will have drilled the defence well and they will be very tight. Ajaccio will not be an attractive side to watch for attacking football, but they should be functional and will again compete hard against avoiding the drop.
Like last season, avoiding relegation is the simple target.
Dhaouadi (att) (Club Africain), Mbarki (def) (CA Bizertin), Kone (mid) (Dinamo Bucarest), Salamone (gk) (Paris Saint-Germain)
Poulsen (k)(mid), Kahlenberg (r)(mid) (VfL Wolfsburg), Leroy (sp)(mid), Rippert (sp)(def), Westberg (gk) (Luzenac), Duran (gk), Farina (mid), Cilinsek (def)
Last season, Evian firmly established themselves as a force in Ligue 1 as they finished midway up the table, taking several notable scalps in the process. Scepticism that they could crumbled after sacking Bernard Casoni at Christmas quickly gave way to optimism as Pablo Correa impressed in his stead, not adopting the dour, defensive approach that was anticipated. They might not be quite as exciting as they once were going forward, but their results have ultimately improved. They will be aiming for a further step forward this season. The prospects for the Annecy club look good. Most of their key players have been retained, although they have so far failed to recapture Thomas Kahlenburg following a loan spell. Christian Poulsen is the only other notable member of their squad who will not be available this season, having elected to leave the club after one successful campaign. On the other hand, fellow Dane Daniel Wass remains, having been one of their stars down the right after joining from Sporting CP initially on loan. The dynamic of their starting XI is not expected to change greatly, although they have added some unknown quantities in the form of forward Zouheir Dhaouadi, a forward, Djakaridja Kone, who will play in midfield, and Iheb M’barki, who will feature at the back. These players will likely integrate over time. Striker Yannick Sagbo, who performed above expectations last season, will lead the offensive line for the club, assuming he is not sold. Several sides are after the front man, though Evian have reasonable strength in depth in this area, not boasting any outstanding players, but commanding enough artillery to ensure that goals will not be in too short supply. Veteran Cedric Barbosa was in terrific form last term, and the playmaker will again be relied upon to provide excellence this time around too as there is a dearth of innovation in the centre of the park for les Roses. Life will become tough if he fails to recapture his best.
Evian will be aiming to push for a top-half finish, and if they can replicate their form of last season, this should be well attainable.
S. Sane (sp)(mid) (AS Nancy Lorraine), Modeste (sp)(att) (SC Bastia – loan), Krychowiak (mid) (Stade de Reims), Savic (sp)(def) (SG Dynamo Dresden – loan), Chevalier (mid) (GFC Ajaccio – loan), Sala (US Orléans – loan)
Bordeaux endured a season of transition last term but finished strongly and only just missed out on the European places. Having impressed late in the last campaign, they’ll be eager to improve their level again and push higher even this season under Francis Gillot, whose primary task last time around was simply to steady a ship that was threatening to sink. He did this using a 3-5-2 formation that he admitted was against his usual attacking instincts, and it’s likely that at some point in this campaign he will attempt to move away from this out-moded setup to something more to his taste. If the new system does not work, he will always have this tactic to fall back on. Remarkably, their squad has gone virtually untouched over the summer, with no major players leaving or arriving. Key midfielder Jaroslav Plasil has confessed that he may seek a move from the club at some point, and if he were to depart before the September 4 deadline that would represent a big blow to their efforts this season. He is an offensive catalyst and a solid defensive player and is probably the key element in the side. Further forward, Yoan Gouffran is an often-lamented talent, yet he has performed well on the whole for the club and boasted an impressive scoring record last term. He will again be seen as their key source of goals this time around. Much of his supply comes from the wide areas, where wing-backs Mariano and Benoit Tremoulinas are standout performers. Both are highly energetic and highly effective. In the heart of the defence, Bordeaux can be a little slow and over-reliant on their physical attributes, but behind the central defenders, they boast Cedric Carrasso, who is one of the strongest goalkeepers in the league. They finished last season well, and they will expect to go well this term too.
Bordeaux will aim to build on last season’s positive effort, and European football is the ultimate goal. They could surprise some people.
Kalou (att) (Chelsea) Martin (mid) (FC Sochaux-Montbéliard), Elana (gk) (Stade Brestois 29), Sidibe (def) (ESTAC Troyes), Klonaridis (AEK Athens)
Hazard (k)(att) (Chelsea), Cole (sp)(mid) (Liverpool – loan ends), Cetto (r)(def) (Palermo – loan ends)
Lille finished third in Ligue 1 last term, and they’ll be aiming to secure a hat-trick of podium finishes this time around. Head coach Rudi Garcia has proven himself an extremely shrewd operator in the transfer window, with les Dogues posting a huge profit from the sale of Eden Hazard to Chelsea. Of course the Belgian was the key man in the Lille side, but they were more than just him, and there is still immense quality in this squad. So far they’ve managed to retain all of their other key men, although right-back Mathieu Debuchy is pushing for a move to England against the wishes of the club. In the place of Hazard, Lille have added three players of quality, also making up for the loss of Joe Cole, who was not retained after his loan. Salomon Kalou arrives on a free transfer from Chelsea, while Marvin Martin will aim to get his career back on track after it stalled somewhat last season. Klondaris is a hot young prospect from Greece that Lille hope is the next Hazard, but he will certainly not have the same immediate impact. Further back, improvements have also been made, but as Mauro Cetto’s loan has ended, Lille are in the market for another central defender. Sidibe will be a valuable addition in the right-back slot, bringing depth and potential after his time from Troyes, while there will be a real scrap over the goalkeeping jersey as Steeve Elana has joined from Brest, where he proved himself as one of the best in the league. It is hard to imagine that either he or Mickael Landreau will be on the bench next season, while Nigeria international Vincent Enyeama will be third choice unless he leaves the club, which is expected. Lille’s slow but gradual evolution of their side continues, and each season they appear to come through equally as strong. They should remain an exciting attacking team as they have a host of offensive options, while their defensive line is often under-rated.
Now established as one of France’s elite, Lille are equipped to finish as high as second in the league, and this should be imminently achievable, despite the loss of Hazard.
Traore (mid) (Auxerre), Giuly (mid) (Monaco)
Douniama (sp)(att) (AC Arles Avignon – loan), Diarra (r)(mid) (AC Ajaccio), Campbell (sp)(att) (Arsenal – loan return), Doukoure (att) (SA Epinal)
Lorient have typically been a model of stability in their most recent appearance in Ligue 1, which has last half a decade, but last season Yoann Gourcuff’s side were forced to battle against relegation for the first time seriously. Injuries ravaged the Breton side, with many of their top performers cut down, and as a result, they were unable to accelerate in the manner that they would have wanted. This summer, they’ve retained their canny stance in the transfer window and have not panicked because of last term’s poor performance. Sigamary Diarra, who never showed his strongest form last season after recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon, has departed for Ajaccio, but on the other hand, Lorient’s starting midfield has been strengthened. FCL have taken advantage of the freedom Ludovic Giuly has to sign the veteran winger, who will probably act as something of a wildcard, but they’ve also broken the bank to swoop for Auxerre’s Alain Traore, who will become the heartbeat of their midfield and upon whom much will rely. Offensively, Lorient must improve. They did not show enough offensively last season to shoot themselves away from danger, although there are good finishers in their squad. They must show this more often, and the return to fitness of Julien Quercia should be a big boost after he missed most of last term. Kevin Monnet-Pacquet is a player who must show more out wide, particularly as he is well capable. At the back, Lorient were surprisingly strong last term, and they now have significant depth across their defensive line, meaning that they will be robust against injuries and suspensions. Typically, they’ve been a team to build their success on their home form, using their synthetic home surface to out pass teams. Like last term, they are not as technically sound as they’ve been in the past, but they will certainly hope for a stronger season than last term.
After nearly being sucked into Ligue 2, a comfortable finish is all Lorient will seek this season.
Herrera (att) (CD Unión Espanola), Mounier (att) (OGC Nice), Congre (def) (Toulouse FC), Charbonnier (att) (Angers SCO)
Giroud (k)(att) (Arsenal), Dernis (sp)(mid) (Stade Brestois 29), Lacombe (att) (Clermont Foot)
Montpellier surprised everyone in the French game last season as they picked up the Ligue 1 crown, showing remarkable consistency in the second half of the campaign to fend off the challenge of big-spending PSG, who were expected to sweep their way to the title. Rene Girard performed a miracle last term, and he’ll be looking to repeat that effort over the course of the next 10 months, albeit to an even greater degree as the power of the Parisian club has grown. Contrary to expectations, Montpellier have so far managed to preserve their title-winning team, with the exception of Olivier Giroud, who has moved to Arsenal. All the other key elements, such as Younes Belhanda, Marco Estrada, Henri Bedimo and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, remains, although the latter of these players has threatened to move to AC Milan. But Montpellier have not only succeeded in retaining their panel, it’s actually been strengthened, too. Last term they relied upon players not picking up injuries, but this time around they actually have some depth to their panel. Both Gaetan Charbonnier and Herrara have looked good additions to the offensive line, while Anthony Mounier was one of the outstanding wingers in the whole league last term and should make a big impression on joining from Nice, where he shouldered the burden for the entire attack. In the back four, the only big change is the addition of Daniel Congre, who will compete with Hilton to start alongside Yanga-Mbiwa, assuming the youngster remains in France next season. With a great squad spirit and an excellent chemistry between the players, there is little to suggest that la Paillade should not be a strong force in Ligue 1 again in the coming campaign, as they have shown themselves to be strong all over the field.
Winning the title again would be staggering, but Montpellier are well capable of challenging for a top three finish once more.
Grange (mid) (Châteauroux), Ayasse (mid) (AC Arles Avignon), Louis (mid) (Le Mans FC), Muratori (def), Dampha (def) (Neuchâtel Xamax FC), Zenke (att) (Samsunspor)
Traore (r)(mid) (AC Milan), Jeannot (att) (Châteauroux – loan), Calve (def) (SM Caen), Niculae (att) (AS Monaco FC – loan return), Cuvillier (mid) (SM Caen – loan), Lemaitre (sp)(def), Zola (mid) (Havre AC), Pillot (gk)
Of all the clubs in Ligue 1, no team has overseen a greater transition of players than Nancy. This widespread change is a risky tactic for a team who actually performed rather well under Jean Fernandez last season after a tricky start to the campaign. Perhaps only one important player has been lost, though, with Bakaye Traore, a particular influence in the second half of the season, going to AC Milan on a free transfer. Many of the other players to go were only at the club on loan or were on the fringes of the squad. Equally, Nancy’s squad depth may have increased, but the quality of their panel has not taken a significant jump. Thomas Ayasse will play the role of Traore this season as the dynamic attacking midfielder, but he’s thus far not been successful in the top flight previously, and Fernandez is set to gamble on several such players to fill his panel for the season ahead. The highly-regarded Romain Grange is another midfielder in this position, along with Jeff Louis, who is likely to be the least used of this trio. In terms of the starting XI, there will be few changes made by the coach. Once again solidarity at the back will be paramount, but Nancy were more attacking last season than many had anticipated, with the capture of attacker Yohan Mollo, who has now joined permanently, playing a key role in this. Ultimately, though, it will be the performance of the defence that determines their success this season. They are strong at the back and well organised, with goalkeeper Guy Ndy Assembe having proved himself a strong shot-stopper, if a little erratic from crossed balls. With a powerful defence in front of him, which is marshalled primarily by Andre Luiz, this weakness is often not easily exposed. At home, Nancy play on a synthetic surface, but they are typically a very direct team who thrive on hitting sides on the counterattack; taking the scalp of PSG in such a manner last term.
Nancy are a team firmly established in Ligue 1, and they’ll expect another mid-table finish this season.
Bautheac (att) (Dijon FCO), Traore (mid) (FC Metz – loan return), Genevois (mid) (Tours FC), Delle (gk) (FC Metz), Kolodzieczak (def) (Olympique Lyonnais)
Goncalves (sp)(att) (Rio Ave), Mounier (k)(mid) (Montpellier Hérault SC), Mouloungui (r)(att) (Al Wahda), Hellebuyck (mid), Sable (sp)(mid), Clerc (r)(def) (AS Saint-Etienne), Diakite (sp)(mid), Veronese (gk) (FC Istres)
Nice have spent recent seasons battling against the threat of demotion from France’s top flight, but former Olympique Lyonnais head coach Claude Puel arrived at the Stade du Ray in the summer with a very different mindset. Over the course of his contract, the ex-Lille boss has suggested that he could see les Aiglons reach the Champions League, and if that’s to be achieved, the first steps must be taken this season. Nice may have seen a cut in their budget, but their squad appears to have been reinforced cleverly in the crucial areas. Going forward, Anthony Mounier was Nice’s only significant threat last season. He has been offloaded to Lille in the summer, giving Puel a clean slate to work from. Ajax striker Darío Cvitanich has been added to the club’s roster and should finally provide them with a centre-forward presence that has been missing since Loic Remy was sold to Marseille. In the midfield, too, Nice appear to have bolstered their team cleverly. Eric Bautheac will be a vital attacking presence from this sector after a fine and somewhat under-rated season with Dijon. At the back, there were never any issues about the quality of les Aiglons’ defence. Renato Civelli and Nemanja Pejcinovic are a well-established centre-back pairing, while Lucas Monzon in the left-back slot is not only a threat from set pieces, he is also one of the outstanding players in his role in France. They have done well to keep hold of Monzon over the course of the summer, and also goalkeeper David Ospina, who was courted by larger clubs. These players will form the basis of the long-term success of the club this season, but much relies on their success to replace Mounier. If Nice can find some cutting edge, they will be dangerous indeed, particularly under Puel, who is a coach known for being able to marshal defences.
Comfortable survival would be seen as a good season for Le Gym.
Ederson (sp)(mid) (Lazio), Kallstrom (r)(mid) (FC Spartak Moscow), Yattara (ESTAC Troyes – loan), Mensah (def), Touncara (gk) (Clermont Foot), Kolodzieczak (def), Seguin (def) (Tours FC), Fontaine (def) (Tours FC)
With only a week remaining before the start of the Ligue 1 season, Olympique Lyonnais are in the remarkable position of being one of the only clubs not to have made a signing. Like fellow heavyweights Marseille, Lyon have been forced to tighten their belts financially, and if they are going to add to their squad, it is likely that they are going to have to first make some sales. High earners will be the players pushed through the door as the change to a focus on youth at Stade Gerland continues. In terms of high profile players to depart the club, Ederson has gone to Lazio on a free transfer, but by far a greater loss to the first team will be Kim Kallstrom, who was always a quietly effective presence in the heart of the team. There is no experienced replacement for the Swede, and therefore head coach Remi Garde will be forced to rely upon a youth academy which was rated the third best in France last year. This will be the case all over the field, particularly as Michel Bastos is set to leave, with Hugo Lloris’ future distinctly uncertain. It would be a huge blow for Lyon to lose players of such calibre all at once, with the goalkeeper showing his worth with a sparkling performance as OL defeated Montpellier to lift the Trophee des Champions. President Jean-Michel Aulas still talks confidently of the future of the club, and it would be easy to play down the quality Lyon still posses. There is perhaps no deadlier striker in Ligue 1 than Lisandro Lopez, while Bafetimbi Gomis remains. Yoann Gourcuff will be given more responsibility after two poor seasons, and he is liable to dictate whether OL’s season is to be a roaring success or not. The biggest problem remains in the centre of the defence, which has been weak for a whole year now. Cris is old and failing, while Dejan Lovren comes into this season struggling. On the flanks, OL are far from secure, and Aly Cissokho is another player who could leave. If their youths cannot come good and injuries strike, Lyon will suffer problems.
President Jean-Michel Aulas has targeted a top-three finish, but on paper this Lyon side is not one of the best in France. Matching last season’s fourth would be a solid effort.
Raspentino (att) (Nantes)
Brandao (sp)(att), Traore (sp)(def), Sabo (sp)(def), Andrade (gk)
Marseille have endured perhaps the most traumatic summer of any club in France’s top flight. OM lost head coach Didier Deschamps and announced that there would be no significant money available to add to their squad before struggling badly in their pre-season friendlies. When it finally came time for play, they started reasonably in the Europa League by scoring a 1-1 draw away against Eskisehirspor. Although no definitive conclusions about Marseille’s season can yet be drawn, the evidence would suggest it will be a struggle. The appointment of Elie Baup to replace the popular Deschamps was largely met with derision from the club’s fans. Although he lifted the French title previously with Bordeaux, he is remembered for his time with Toulouse, where his side were incredibly dour, and also Nantes, whom he allowed to be relegated, never to return. What’s more, there is tension within the squad. Andre Ayew and Jordan Ayew have both been involved in spats with their team-mates over the course of pre-season, and the tension has not been relieved any by fresh additions. Indeed, the only player to be signed by OM this summer has been Florian Raspentino, who is an attacking prospect to arrive from Nantes. Although he has enjoyed a good pre-season, he cannot be expected to play any more than a bit-part role this term. In an attempt to cut the wage bill of their side, Marseille have allowed some fringe players to go, the most prominent of whom are Brandao and Djimi Traore. It seems that they will rely on a healthy youth system to replace these men, although this in itself is something of a gamble. After drawing in Turkey in the Europa League, the squad spoke buoyantly and confidently about what the future may hold, but after such a disastrous conclusion to last term, no further investment and a downgrading of coaching, it is easy to see Marseille slipping back into a mid-table position next term. With the squad they have, they are capable of better, but they will have to tread carefully in the transfer market.
Marseille’s aim is always Champions League football, but the way the club is at the moment, top five would be considered a decent effort. This would not be accepted by the fans, though.
Ibrahimovic (att) (AC Milan), Thiago Silva (def) (AC Milan), Lavezzi (mid) (SS. Napoli), Verratti (mid) (Pescara)
Ceara (def), Bahebeck (mid) (ESTAC Troyes – loan), Ngoyi (mid) (ESTAC Troyes), Salamone (gk) (Evian TG FC)
Paris Saint-Germain have been catching the headlines in the French media for the last year since the takeover of QSI, but this was stepped up a level further over the course of the summer as their spending and profile reached new heights. Runners-up under Carlo Ancelotti last season, the Qatari-owned club have set themselves up not only to go one better in the league, but also to perform strongly in Europe. The arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the big news this summer, yet the Swedish striker, who is widely renowned as one of the best in the game, was only the club’s third biggest signing. Ezequiel Lavezzi will come into an offensive line riddled with talent, while Thiago Silva, the best defender in the world according to many, was added for €42 million to strengthen a defence that was an Achilles heel of the team previously. Both Ibrahimovic and Silva have worked previously with Ancelotti and will know what to expect. PSG’s advantages over their rivals are huge, with a budget estimated as being more than twice as large as their nearest competitors, and their squad is now the match of any in Europe, both in terms of quality and depth. Vying with Lavezzi and Ibrahimovic for attacking berths are Nene, Jeremy Menez, Javier Pastore and France internationals Guillaume Hoarau and Kevin Gameiro, both of whom could depart the club before the end of the transfer window due to a potential lack of opportunities. Their talent pool all over the field is as deep, and many commentators have suggested that if they had two sides, both could finish in France’s top five. Perhaps their only problems could come from within. Infighting and lack of satisfaction over game time could upset the rhythm of the team, while the new arrivals could take Ligue 1 too lightly after playing in Italy over the last few years. Without complacency, and assuming the new players can gel in even remotely quickly, it’s difficult to see anyone unseating PSG this time around.
Anything less than the title and a good run in the Champions League will be seen as a below-par effort.
Fauvergue (att) (CS Sedan), Toudic (att) (RC Lens – loan), Fofana (def) (Toulouse FC), Krychowiak (mid) (Girondins de Bordeaux), Signorino (def) (Stade Lavallois), Devaux (mid) (Toulouse FC)
Faure (r)(att) (EA Guingamp), Amalfitano (r)(mid) (Newcastle United FC), Tainmont (sp)(def) (Châteauroux), Deaux (sp)(mid) (FC Nantes), Fontaine (sp)(mid) (FC Rouen 1899), Collet (mid), Aubey (def), Kodjia (gk) (Amiens – loan)
Reims were once one of the heavyweights of European football, almost attaining the pinnacle of European football in the 1950s, and after a spell out of the spotlight, they have returned to the top level of the French game. Hubert Fournier led his team to an unexpected top three finish last term in spite of a relatively small budget. Although the coach has had his hands freed to spend a little more this summer, these sums are dwarfed by many of the teams around his, and a battle against relegation would appear to be on the cards. Fournier has gambled by signing Nicolas Fauvergue from Sedan, a player around which he will build his offence. Although he was a highly-reliable goal scorer in Ligue 2, Fauvergue flopped previously while Lille, but the coach will hope the young striker has matured enough to make a success of his second go at Ligue 1. It will be vital he is able to establish himself successfully. Reims do have other talented players, of course. Kamel Ghilas will float just behind the central striker and would be expected to be their top scorer, even from the No.10 position. Out wide, Odair Fortes is exceptionally quick but sometimes wasteful, and will have to raise his level for this challenge. Midfield will be a crucial area for the newly promoted club, and they’ve strengthened accordingly, shedding Lucas Deaux and adding Gregorz Krychowiak and Antoine Deveaux – two very canny signings. Perhaps where they are most vulnerable, though, is in defence, which was an area that looked uncertain at times even a level down. Franck Signorino is added to add experience, while Mohamed Fofana arrives from Toulouse to supply muscle. A lack of depth all over the team will be a big handicap if injuries and suspensions strike the squad, although last season they showed themselves to be a physically reliable team who were mentally sound too. After basing their success on their home form last season, they will again have to excel at the Stade August Delaune.
Avoiding relegation will be tricky for Reims, and this is what their attention is focussed on.
Hamouma (mid) (SM Caen), Cohade (mid) (Valenciennes FC), Clerc (def) (OGC Nice)
Sinama-Pongolle (sp)(att) (Sporting CP – loan return), Marchal (r)(def) (SC Bastia), Batlles (sp)(mid), Janot (sp)(gk) (Le Mans FC), Ebondo (sp)(def), Ravet (att) (Angers SCO – loan), Nery (sp)(def) (Valenciennes FC), Paulao (sp)(def) (Betis)
Saint-Etienne coach Christophe Galtier may have seen his budget cut marginally in the lead up to the new campaign, but ASSE go into the season with quiet confidence that they are building a team capable of threatening the European places. Galtier has done a strong job so far at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, leading the club to consecutive top 10 finishes. Although going a step further may be a little beyond the club’s capabilities, it is a fair aim for a capable squad. Losing Florent Sinama-Pongolle, one of their top earners on loan from Sporting CP, has allowed the club to invest wisely in Ligue 1-proven talent such as Renaud Cohade, who will become the fulcrum of the midfield having previously excelled at Valenciennes. Even the loss of Sylvain Marchal in the heart of the defence has been adequately covered by the present depth of the squad, and most starkly the emergence of teenage defender Kurt Zouma, who has been tipped as one of the outstanding teenagers to watch in the French game. Going forward, Saint-Etienne’s play is marked by quick attacking breaks, personified best by the talents of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, whose ability to refine his finishing last season was one of the factors that lifted in to the realms of a feared top-flight forward. Max Gradel’s performances on the wing in pre-season suggest that he could be a real presence in Ligue 1 this term, while in the midfield, Sainte are also well armed. Jeremy Clement and Fabien Lemoine are two players excellent at providing the legwork while Cohade plays, and that’s not even taking into account Josuha Guilavogui, a quickly-developing dynamic central player. Les Verts are not expected to have any one particular weakness in their play, although their team as a whole is not quite up to the level of the best in France. A lack of guile can be evident at times, while their defence has not been hard-nosed enough in the past, despite the presence of excellent goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier, who enjoyed a magnificent debut campaign.
Strides are being made under Christophe Galtier, and Sainte will be aiming for Europe. Realistically, this will be a little beyond them.
Ilan (att) (AC Ajaccio), Marchal (def) (AS Saint-Etienne), Palmieri (FC Istres), Modeste (att) (Girondins de Bordeaux), Yatabare (mid) (AS Monaco FC), Bonnefoi (gk) (Angers), Varenne (Cournon)
Diallo (k)(mid) (Stade Rennais FC) Genest (sp)(mid) (FC Istres), Suarez (sp)(att) (AC Arles Avignon), Periatambee (mid), Robail (sp)(mid) (Nîmes Olympique), Sanaia (sp)(def)
Bastia handily won Ligue 2 last season, and this time around they’ll hold high hopes of establishing themselves in France’s top flight. The Corsican outfit were by some distance the classiest offensive outfit last term, boasting talented players such as Jerome Rothen, whose experience and talent proved to be too much for their rivals. This time around, life will not be so simple. At home, they will aim to replicate the unbeaten performances that were the bedrock of their success last time. Losing exciting offensive midfielder Sadio Diallo, who provided firepower from long range, will be something of a blow for the Bastia, but otherwise David Suarez is the only other really meaningful player to depart. Coming into the team, though, they have a nice blend of youth and experience. Ilan will bolster their offensive line, bringing considerable knowhow to the attack, while Sylvain Marchal’s arrival will add experience to the heart of the defence. There are also some fresh faces who arrive, including Anthony Modeste, who remains a desired striker despite a poor record in the top flight. Additionally, former Monaco midfielder Sambou Yatabare arrives with a point to prove after two disappointing seasons, though he is a player of immense potential still. The rearguard may not be an area of particular concern, but there were weaknesses exposed in this aspect of their play away from home last season, meaning that Bastia lost half the time they played on the road. Head coach Frederic Hantz must find a formula that allows them to be more competitive on the road if they are to thrive, and that may mean adopting a more defensive system that is against his natural instincts. Hantz does have experience in the top flight previously, and this is likely to be vital for his side as the season develops.
Bastia will seek to avoid the drop, and they are the best placed of the promoted sides to achieve this.
Yartey (att) (SL Benfica), Contout (att) (AJ Auxerre), Kante (def) (Panathinaikos), Pouplin (gk) (SC Fribourg), Doubai (mid) (Udinese Calcio), Daf (def) (Stade Brestois 29)
Martin (k)(mid) (LOSC Lille), Maiga (r)(att) (West Ham), Richert (k)(gk), Brechet (k)(def), Davies (att)
Sochaux had to battle against relegation until the very last day of the season, but one of Ligue 1’s most historic clubs managed to scramble themselves to safety just when it mattered. Mecha Bazdarevic’s appointment as coach last summer proved to be a disastrous move, and it was not until Eric Hely took the reins near the end of the campaign that they finally started to look a team of standard. However, an opportunity to develop the club was crucially lost, with the talents of Ryad Boudebouz and Marvin Martin forced to stagnate for much of the campaign. Martin has departed the club for Lille, and although Boudebouz remains, it is expected that he will fly to one of Ligue 1’s big guns over the remainder of the transfer window. Other experienced players have gone, too. Modibo Maiga, an enigmatic but effective striker, has gone to England, while veteran defender Jeremie Brechet has left the club. The baton will be passed to new members of the youth academy to take over, with the likes of Joseph Lopy excelling under Hely’s guidance towards the end of last season. But les Lionceaux are not a team who will rely on youth alone. Sebastien Roudet has the potential to be a Ligue 1 playmaker of some note, yet this was not evident in his performances under Bazdarevic last season. During the summer the club have acted to attract several fresh faces, but many of these are relative unknowns in the world of Ligue 1, and it remains to be seen how effectively they can settle into their new surrounds – something that will almost certainly act to define Sochaux’s campaign. Yartey is the most intriguing of their new additions, but players such as Simon Pouplin and Cedric Kante, who are returning to Ligue 1 after stints away, should certainly serve to bolster the side very much. Auxerre’s Roy Contout also arrives, though he is notoriously frustrating.
After going close to the drop last season, avoiding relegation is key. With this squad, they should achieve that, but making inroads into the top 10 will be difficult.
Traore (def) (CS Sedan), Benschop (att) (AZ Alkmaar), Thebaux (gk) (SM Caen), Chafni (mid) (Auxerre), Mendy (OB Odense), Dernis (Montpellier Hérault SC), Sissoko (Udinese Calcio – loan)
Poyet (sp)(att) (SM Caen), Zebina (k)(def) (Toulouse FC), Gentiletti (sp)(def) (Argentinos juniors, ARG), Jemaa (sp)(att) (Auxerre), Elana (k)(gk) (LOSC), Ewolo (sp)(mid) (Stade Lavallois), Daf (r)(def) (FC Sochaux-Montbéliard), Bigne (mid)
Brest just avoided relegation last season as Courentins Martin took the reins at the last minute from the sacked Alex Dupont and steered the Breton club to safety. Martin, however, will not remain in charge of first-team affairs, with Landry Chauvin taking charge. Chauvin has pushed for promotion into the top flight with Nantes and Sedan unsuccessfully in recent times, so it is something of a gamble appointing him, particularly as he represents something of a departure from the dull, defensive football that has been so synonymous with the Stade Francis Le Ble club over the course of the last two seasons. They have been incredibly difficult to beat, particularly at home, and this is something that Chauvin must maintain in this side if they are to thrive this term. There has been a big turnover of players in the summer months, but so far it seems that they have failed to solve their goalscoring problems. Alexandre Alphonse was expected to provide some firepower after arriving in January but has largely failed to contribute, though with Kamel Chafni signed to provide some creativity in the No.10 role or out wide, more opportunities should be forthcoming. Brest were incredibly reliant on set pieces to produce them goals last season, though in Bruno Grougi they have arguably Ligue 1’s deadliest player over direct free kicks. He is no slouch when it comes to delivering corners or free kicks, either. Geoffrey Dernis, meanwhile, has been added to provide stability, depth and experience alongside him in the midfield. Keystone defender Jonathan Zebina may have opted to make a Bosman move to Toulouse and excellent goalkeeper Steeve Elana may have fled to Lille, but Brest have reinforced an already strong rearguard. Ismael Traore arrives from Sedan, where Chauvin knew him well, while goalkeeper Alevxis Thebault was perhaps the league’s most under-rated in his position last season, when he could not help Caen avoid the drop.
Brest will be amongst the sides fighting for survival, but a lack of goals could really cost them.
Alessandrini (mid) (CS Sedan), Diallo (mid) (SC Bastia)
Mangane (r)(def) (Al-Hilal), Doumbia (sp)(mid) (Wolverhampton – loan), Dalmat (mid) (Nîmes Olympique), Hadji (sp)(att) (Al-Arabi), Carrasso (sp)(gk) (FC Metz),Rouger (mid) (EA Guingamp – loan), Boyer (mid) (Angers SCO), N’Diaye (gk)
Rennes were one of the great underachievers of last season, failing to grab a European spot despite boasting a panel of players that was perhaps capable of challenging the top three or four in the league. The Breton club started the campaign explosively but quickly faded, leading to rumours that head coach Frederic Antonetti could be sacked, yet he remains in charge heading into the fresh campaign. Les Rouge et Noir will expect a significant improvement and a Europa League spot will be a requirement for a team known for failing against lower league opposition in the cups – as they did crucially twice last season. Yann M’Vila has made most of the headlines this summer as he has not yet left the club, and it’s still unclear what the future holds for the holding midfielder, who has rather gone out of frashion after a difficult conclusion to last term. He may not be the all-action midfielder held up in the media, but he is a very steady performer and could still be a giant influence for Rennes on his day. It’s going forward where Rennes’ greatest inconsistencies show. Jonathan Pitroipa is potentially outstanding, but can just as easily flop, and he is the embodiment of an offensive line that lacks any continuity. Antonetti is partly to blame for this as the squad is too big and often means he rotates his panel unnecessarily, although this should not be such a big problem this term given that Rennes will not be in Europe. Some trimming has already been done, although it has not been as extensive as envisaged earlier this summer. Kader Mangane is one of the leaders gone from the defence, but the likes of Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik, who has been attracting interest from AC Milan, and Romain Danze, who was linked with a move away from the club, remain. Goalkeeper Benoit Costil proved himself one of the league’s most reliable last term and will be a good base from which the rest of the squad can be constructed from.
Anything less than a European finish will see the end of Antonetti. They have been too inconsistent in recent times to expect a top six spot, though.
Zebina (def) (Brest), Blondel (gk) (ESTAC)
Congre (r)(def) (Montpellier Hérault SC), Bulut (sp)(att) (Galatasaray – loan), Fofana (sp)(def) (Stade de Reims), Riou (sp)(gk) (FC Nantes), Deveaux (sp)(mid) (Stade de Reims), Loustallout (gk) (Rodez), Soukouna (att) (US Luzenac – loan)
Toulouse achieved an impressive campaign in Ligue 1 last time out, despite failing to achieve European football. Alain Casanova’s side might have been a rather dour outfit to watch – a claim that the coach vehemently denied in spite of damning evidence to the contrary – but they were certainly effective, and at their best they were rather devastating. Matching that performance will be their aim this season. In terms of players they have lost, Daniel Congre will be the key man from the defensive line. A versatile performer, he was important in one of the league’s strongest back fours. On the other hand, le Tefece have done well to instead recruit veteran Jonathan Zebina, who provided Brest with sterling service last term and who can be equally influential with the Garonne outfit this time around. Troublingly, no strides have been made to improve an offensive line that was too reliant on set pieces to produce goals last season. Emmanuel Riviere remains, and he will be expected to do more to justify the €4 million fee that was given to Saint-Etienne 12 months ago. In the midfield, Toulouse remain exceptionally solid. Etienne Capoue was arguably the best holding midfielder in the whole league last season and was courted by Arsenal and Barcelona over the summer, and again forms the fulcrum of the whole side – assuming there is no last-minute transfer activity. On the left side, Franck Tabanou is a player that Toulouse have done exceptionally well to hold on to for the last two years and who will provide much of the expected creativity from the midfield. Toulouse are dangerous down both flanks but are let down by their lack of consistent centre-forward threat and the fact that they do not have a high level playmaker who is trusted by the coach. Casanova’s side should be expected to be well disciplined, but they will produce few fireworks, with low scoring games regular.
Matching last term’s success will be the aim, but realistically they will be in the mid-table mix and could well finish closer to the bottom of the standings than the top.
Yattara (mid) (Olympique Lyonnais – loan), Nivet (mid) (SM Caen), Darbion (mid) (Skoda Xanthi FC), Dreyer (gk) (Fréjus), Gope-Fenepej (def) (AS Magenta), Bahebeck (mid) (Paris Saint-Germain – loan), Ngoyi (mid) (Paris Saint-Germain)
Caceres (r)(att) (Dijon FCO – loan), Beauvue (sp)(mid) (Châteauroux), Sidibe (r)(def) (LOSC Lille), Blondel (r)(gk) (Toulouse FC)
Troyes sneaked into Ligue 1 in the closing weeks last term, finishing third in Ligue 2 after an epic battle that involved nearly half the league. No team in the whole of the league was more difficult to beat that Jean-Marc Furlan’s outfit, and they’ll be aiming to be just as stubborn when they feature in the top flight. After scoring a paltry 45 goals last season, they’ll need to make a big improvement in front of goal. Given their summer signings, a dramatic change would be surprising as they have failed as yet to add to their striking panel. Offensive midfielder Stephane Darbion will join Troyes’ ranks along with Benjamin Nivet, whose contributions were brief but often profound for Caen last season as he enters the twilight of his career with a club that he knows well. Jean-Christophe Bahebeck has joined from PSG, yet his arrival is very recent and it will take him time to bed in. In any case, he has not looked ready for the rigours of regular top-flight football during his few appearances. Otherwise, their changes have largely been of the defensive variety. Grandi Ngoyi will add steel to the midfield after joining from PSG, having starred for Nantes in Ligue 2 last term, but otherwise the squad has been depleted at the back, where it was strongest. Djibril Sidibe, their exciting right-back, has left for Lille, while reliable goalkeeper Olivier Blondel has left for Toulouse. Yohann Thuram-Ulien remains, and though he’s shown some potential, starting the season with him as a first choice is a risky business indeed. There is still some real strength at the back still, but this is sure to be pushed to the limit over the course of the season as their reliance on this area of the team would appear likely to be total. Unless they can strengthen significantly, a long season would appear to be in store.
Troyes will be favourites for relegation, with their offensive weaknesses a particular worry. Safety is their aim.
Nery (def) (Saint-Etienne)
Carlos Sanchez (k)(mid) (Bolton Wanderers FC), Cohade (r)(mid) (AS Saint-Etienne), Pallois (def) (Chamois Niortais), Traore (sp)(def) (Stade Lavallois)
Valenciennes have been permanent strugglers against relegation since their promotion to France’s top level half a decade ago, and for the northern club there is likely to be no dramatic change in their fortunes heading into this campaign. For a period under Philippe Montanier and Antoine Kombouare they had anchored themselves in the heart of the table, but last term under Daniel Sanchez was something of a step backwards, and it was only in the closing weeks of the campaign that their survival was assured. Sanchez achieved a par score last season for his performance, but failure to do so again this term will result in relegation. VA’s task does not look easy either. Their midfield has been picked apart, with the departures of Renaud Cohade and Carlos Sanchez potentially very damaging. Gael Danic remains but has a high level of expectation to match. Further forward, VA will need striker Gregory Pujol to remain fit if they’re to launch a serious challenge for early safety. The striker has been a fulcrum of their attack for several seasons, and his presence on the sidelines due to injury last season was one of the major reasons they often struggled. At times, they can be a very exciting attacking force, with young attacker Vincent Aboubakar certainly a player to watch because of his speed and dynamism. At the back, improvements must be made. Nicolas Isimat was a strong performer last term and will be expected to perform to such a standard again this season, while Gil should be more secure after a difficult start to life in France. On the left side of the defence, Gaetan Bong is a potentially outstanding performer, yet he could be shifted on to another club before the close of the transfer window. Over the summer, VA have weakened significantly in their midfield, and it is how the newly-constructed central area copes that will have the key determining factor on their season.
Losing some key members of their squad leaves Valenciennes vulnerable to the drop, and any position in safety has to be their target.