Can Anyone Challenge Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco?

Nicholas McGeeContributor IAugust 7, 2013

PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 18:  Thiago Silva lifts the Ligue 1 trophy after the Ligue 1 match between Paris Saint-Germain FC and Stade Brestois 29 at Parc des Princes on May 18, 2013 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Paris Saint-Germain have bolstered their ranks heavily in the transfer window, with Edinson Cavani, Marquinhos and Lucas Digne joining a squad that already boasts the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Thiago Silva.

The champions appear to have a challenger to their throne in the form AS Monaco who, backed by the finances of owner Dmitry Rybolovlev, have attracted a host of talented players including Radamel Falcao, Joao Moutinho, James Rodriguez and Eric Abidal to the club.

PSG and Monaco appear destined to do battle for the title, but can anyone else pose a threat for the Ligue 1 title?

The short answer, somewhat predictably, is no.

However, the elongated explanation is that Marseille are the most likely to cause PSG and Monaco problems. But while both they and Lyon have the quality to remain in the upper echelons of the division, they do not have the depth to maintain a sustained challenge.

Marseille were incredibly impressive defensively last season, and after so far keeping hold of star centre-back Nicolas N'Koulou and bringing in full-back Benjamin Mendy from Le Havre, they should be able to maintain their fortitude at the back in 2013-14. 

Elie Baup has also added to his midfield with the signing of Gilbert Imbula from Ligue 1 new boys Guingamp, but when it came to the crunch it was Marseille's forward line that fell short, while PSG found the net with little difficulty.

Andre-Pierre Gignac was the key man for Marseille up front last term, scoring 13 league goals, but the 27-year-old will have greater support next season. France international winger Dimitri Payet joins from Lille, and Saber Khelifa—the striker who spearheaded Evian's successful survival fight last season—also moved to the Stade Velodrome.

Those additions should ensure that Baup's men will be competitive at the sharp end of the Ligue 1 table, but the situation is less clear-cut at Lyon, who appear more intent on relying on youth as owner Jean-Michel Aulas attempts to trim the wage bill. 

Right-back Miguel Lopes has signed on loan from Sporting Lisbon, with left-back Henri Bedimo joining from Montpellier.

Gael Danic has been manager Remi Garde's only attacking signing, but with Aulas keen to offload striker Bafetimbi Gomis (ESPN), the onus is likely to fall on Lisandro Lopez, as well as young guns Clement Grenier, Alexandre Lacazette, Yassine Benzia and Rachid Ghezzal, to provide the attacking impetus.

Marseille have recruited more significantly than Lyon, but both teams appear to be placing a severe amount of pressure on the shoulders of just a handful of players.

This is not a problem that neither PSG nor Monaco face.

Monaco's 5-2 demolition of Tottenham last Saturday showcased the quality of Falcao and Moutinho, but it also the highlighted the talents of youngsters Yannick Ferreira Carrasco and Lucas Ocampos.

That duo should feature intermittently for Claudio Ranieri's men, while teenager Anthony Martial, midfielder Mounir Obbadi and striker Valere Germain should be able to have some sort of an impact. 

Meanwhile, PSG manager Laurent Blanc has already shown his hand by fearlessly throwing promising forward Hervin Ongenda and attacking midfielder Kingsley Coman into his first-team squad.

Ongenda has already made an impression, with the 18-year-old scoring the equalizer in PSG's 2-1 Trophee des Champions win over Bordeaux.

PSG and Monaco possess squads filled with established talent and exciting prospects.

Marseille and Lyon do not have that luxury, while Saint-Etienne—who lost Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the offseason—as well as Lille and Nice are way off the level required to mount a title tilt.

The 2013-14 Ligue 1 season is poised to be an interesting campaign, but the smart money says that the title will be staying or Paris, or taking the trip to the principality come May.