A leaner and fitter Lionel Messi, the likes of new signing Neymar and Kylian Mbappe left behind make Paris Saint-Germain runaway favorites to retain their Ligue 1 title when the French league season kicks off.
Last season, the Parisians won the title with a 15-point advantage over second-placed Olympique de Marseille despite Messi failing to impress, Neymar and Mbappe unsettled and Sergio Ramos absent for most of the campaign.
But their galaxy of stars has turned a corner and shown a new luster, evident in a pre-season tour of Japan and last Sunday’s emphatic 4-0 Super Cup win over Nantes. Read the full story
It suggests the rift between PSG and the rest of Ligue 1 could widen this season, despite a change of coach with Mauricio Pochettino replacing Christophe Gaultier.
“Once you go to PSG, you have an obligation to get results,” Gaultier said when he arrived at the club last month.
“I am very ambitious. I came to Paris to win. There are three domestic trophies: we have to win them. You have to break records. And, with humility, I tell you, I came to Paris to win everything.”
Galtier was the last coach to break PSG’s dominance when he led Lille to the title two seasons ago and they must balance domestic dominance with Champions League ambitions.
PSG begin their campaign at Clermont on Saturday with the first game of the Ligue 1 season on Friday when Olympique Lyonnais host promoted Ajaccio.
Lyon’s eighth-place finish last season was their worst since 1996 but Dutch coach Peter Bos has strengthened his squad with Alexandre Lacazette, Bayern Munich’s Corentin Tolisso and Ajax Amsterdam’s Nicolas Tagliafico returning from Arsenal.
The club also has a new American owner, John Textor, who has promised supporters: “We want to win titles here. We’re going to show up and we’re going to spend”.
This significantly improves the chances of being able to challenge with the likes of Marseille, Monaco and Stade Rennes.
Despite finishing second last season, Marseille sacked troubled coach Jorge Sampaoli and replaced him with former Croatia international Igor Tudor.
Monaco, who were held at home by PSV Eindhoven in the first leg of their Champions League third qualifying round tie on Tuesday, have boosted their attack with two new signings.
Wissam Ben Yedder, who scored 25 goals last season, has been joined by Switzerland’s Bril Embolo from Borussia Moenchengladbach and Japan’s Takumi Minamino from Liverpool.
Rennes finished fourth last season, scoring 82 league goals and will be expected to repeat the attacking approach this campaign.