The football season returns in earnest this weekend, and although we are still waiting for the start of the Premier League, La Liga, the Bundesliga and Serie A, France’s Ligue 1 has already kicked off. Monaco got things underway on Friday night with an entertaining 3-2 win over Toulouse and it’s PSG’s turn on Saturday.
The sports news in France has been dominated by the imminent arrival of Neymar for a world record transfer fee, but the Brazilian playmaker is unable to make his debut against Amiens as all of the documents surrounding the transfer were not submitted in time. Regardless, there is likely to be a celebratory atmosphere in Saturday’s first home match of the season and that doesn’t bode well for newly-promoted Amiens.
The club from the Northern city of Amiens were only promoted back to League 2 the season before last after finishing third in the Championnat National. They earned a second promotion in two years by finishing a dramatic second in the second tier last term, and are set to enjoy a first-ever season in the top flight. An opening game against the all-stars of PSG is a baptism of fire for the new-comers.
Another promoted club with a sobering introduction to Ligue 1 football is Strasbourg, who travel to Lyon for their opening match. Lyon missed out on Champions League qualification last season after a fourth placed finish saw them qualify for the Europa League, but they are one of the top sides in the division and Ligue 2 champions Strasbourg have a tough assignment on Saturday evening.
Marseille rallied to finish 5th last season and are set to play Domzale in a Europa League qualifier in order to reach the group stages. After a financial crisis the club have reinvested over the last two seasons, most notably bringing Dimitri Payet back from West Ham last season. They wait until Sunday to get their season underway, but have a very winnable home game in store against Dijon, who only secured survival on the last day of the 2016/17 campaign.
PSG v Amiens
First, PSG can defy a -2.5 goal handicap at +100 with Paddy Power.
It’s not often a team can be confidently backed to win by three clear goals, but such is the gap in class between these sides that it is entirely possible. After losing out on the title to Monaco last season PSG will be itching to start the season with a bang as they look to dominate and regain their place at the top of the pile in France. The signing of Neymar from Barcelona is evidence of the scale of the ambition in Paris, and they have to be considered contenders for the Champions League this season. Experienced right back Danny Alves has also joined from Juventus, and Unai Emery has one of the most talented squads in Europe at his disposal.
PSG regularly hit fours, fives and sixes last term, and won three of their last four homes games by a margin of at least four goals. They showed that they ready for the new season by beating Monaco 2-1 in the French Super Cup last week, and everything points to a comfortable victory.
Amiens fought to the bitter end to secure promotion last term, with a 95th minute winner against Reims on the last day of the season saw them snatch 2nd place and automatic promotion from Troyes. It’s been a fairytale couple of season which has seen back-to-back promotions elevate the club from the third to the first tier, but one suspects it will be a mammoth task just to earn survival in the division. Results against PSG will certainly not decide their fate.
Lyon v Strasbourg
Lyon are short odds to beat Strasbourg but should be good enough to return a win at -233 with Marathonbet.
Strasbourg finished one point ahead of Amiens and Troyes in an incredibly tight Ligue 2, winning the title and earning promotion as champions. Remarkably they are another side that has won back-to-back promotions, winning the Championnat National in 2016, before last season’s heroics. This ends a nine-year absence from the top flight – a period in which the club entered liquidation and dropped to the fourth tier of French football.
Lyon finished 4th in Ligue 1 last season, missing out on a Champions League spot. They were dumped out at the group stage of last seasons competition in a group involving Juventus and Sevilla, and went on to suffer defeat to Besiktas in the Europa League quarter final. they are one of the big boys in France and although they have lost striker Alexandre Lacazette to Arsenal, there have been plenty of in-coming signings to boost the squad.
Marseille v Dijon
Marseille are now unbeaten in all competitions and friendlies since the 1st of March when they lost a Coupe de France match to Monaco. They put a poor start behind them last season to rally and finish 5th in the table, and are favourites to beat Domzale and take their place in the Europa League. A good Ligue 1 season will also be in the agenda, with the target of a return to the Champions League by finishing among the top three.
Dijon were promoted back to the top flight the season before last, and survived in 2016/17 by a fine margin. A 0-0 draw with Toulouse on the final day was enough to secure survival, but this season will be equally difficult.
PSG -2.5 to beat Amiens
Saturday 5th August, 16:15 GMT
Lyon to beat Strasbourg
Saturday 5th August, 19:00 GMT
Marseille to beat Dijon
Sunday 6th August, 20:00 GMT