Team-by-Team Guide to the 2014/15 Ligue 1 Season

Jonathan JohnsonFeatured ColumnistAugust 3, 2014

Team-by-Team Guide to the 2014/15 Ligue 1 Season

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    Jacques Brinon/Associated Press

    The new Ligue 1 season is almost upon us. Champions Paris Saint-Germain will travel to Stade Auguste Delaune to face Stade de Reims on Friday, August 8 to kick off the new campaign. As has become customary, it has once again been a summer of change in Le Championnat.

    Not only has there been the now traditional exodus in talent from the French top flight, there has also been a heavy number of coaching changes. No fewer than seven sides will be boasting new bosses when the new term gets underway, and among those with new tacticians are powerhouses AS Monaco, Olympique de Marseille and Olympique Lyonnais.

    Paris Saint-Germain will start the season as favourites to successfully defend their title and claim a third consecutive Ligue 1 crown, but they should face sterner resistance from a number of the chasing pack. The new faces are the popular RC Lens—finally granted their top-flight status after a legal wrangle—FC Metz and SM Caen.

    Here is our team-by-team guide to the 2014/15 Ligue 1 season.

     

    *All transfers accurate and up-to-date as of August 4, thanks to Ligue1.com’s transfer tracker. All statistics from last season are also via Ligue1.com.

SC Bastia

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    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    Coach: Claude Makelele.

    After spending the past three seasons as an assistant coach to both Carlo Ancelotti and Laurent Blanc at PSG, former Real Madrid, Chelsea and France midfielder Claude Makelele has finally decided to strike out on his own. His debut posting as a first-team coach comes in Corsica with SC Bastia.

     

    Last Season: 10th in Ligue 1.

    After four seasons in charge of Bastia, Frederic Hantz decided that it was time to step aside. Having overseen the Turchini’s rise from the third tier of French football back to the top, it was an understandable decision. Last term’s 10th-place finish in Le Championnat was their best finish since 2000/01’s final position of eighth.

     

    Key Man: Ryad Boudebouz.

    Although his debut season at Stade Armand Cesari did not go as well as was expected, the Algerian international still managed to contribute four goals and six assists in 34 Ligue 1 appearances. With Wahbi Khazri now gone, the 24-year-old will be expected to step up and fill the creative void left by the Tunisian.

     

    Main Transfer Moves:

    In:

    Floyd Ayite (Stade de Reims), Brandao (AS Saint-Etienne), Guillaume Gillet (RSC Anderlecht on loan), Mathieu Peybernes (FC Sochaux-Montbeliard), Christopher Maboulou (Chateauroux), Alphonse Areola (Paris Saint-Germain on loan), Apodi (Queretaro) and Gadji Tallo (AS Roma on loan).

    Out:

    Gianni Bruno (Lille OSC/Evian TG FC), Toifilou Maoulida (Nimes Olympique), Wahbi Khazri (Girondins de Bordeaux), Fethi Harek (Nimes), Mickael Landreau (retired), Florian Raspentino (Olympique de Marseille/SM Caen), Ilan (released), Julien Sable (retired) and Milos Krasic (Fenerbahce SK).

     

    Expectations:

    Another mid-table finish would be more than acceptable in Makelele’s debut season.

Girondins de Bordeaux

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    Coach: Willy Sagnol.

    Like Makelele at Bastia, Willy Sagnol is also making his coaching debut at club level in Ligue 1 and will be in charge of Girondins de Bordeaux for the coming season. After one year with France’s under-21 side, the former Saint-Etienne, Monaco, Bayern Munich and Les Bleus star is ready to take on the challenge at Stade Chaban-Delmas.

     

    Last Season: 7th in Ligue 1.

    Former coach Francis Gillot decided he’d had enough at the end of last season after three consecutive Top 10 finishes with limited resources. With Les Girondins badly in need of a new direction, Sagnol has come in and started to make a number of changes to a squad that had started to stagnate under Gillot’s leadership.

     

    Key Man: Wahbi Khazri.

    Bastia’s star man last season, Khazri needed a step up, which he will get at Bordeaux. Although both were in a similar position come the end of last season, there is plenty of potential under Sagnol at Stade Chaban-Delmas, and Khazri will provide much-needed creative impetus for Les Girondins.

     

    Main Transfer Moves:

    In:

    Wahbi Khazri (Bastia), Nicolas Pallois (Chamois Niortais) and Jaroslav Plasil (Catania).

    Out:

    Landry N'Guemo (released), Guillaume Hoarau (released), Henrique (Fluminense), David Bellion (Red Star FC), Mathieu Chalme (released) and Jeremie Brechet (released).

     

    Expectations:

    Despite a number of departures, Bordeaux will be expected to figure in the top half of the Ligue 1 table once again because they have managed to retain the majority of their most talented players.

SM Caen

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    David Vincent/Associated Press

    Coach: Patrice Garande.

    Having been assistant coach at Caen since 2005, former France international Patrice Garande has been in charge of the Normandy-based club since 2012. In his first season at the helm, the club finished fourth in Ligue 2—narrowly missing out on promotion—before making in back to the top at the second time of asking after a two-season absence.

     

    Last Season: 3rd in Ligue 2.

    Thanks largely to the goals of Mathieu Duhamel, Caen managed to beat Nancy to the third and final promotion place by just three points.

     

    Key Man: Mathieu Duhamel.

    As mentioned earlier, Duhamel was Caen’s star man last season and will be their main source of goals once again this time around. The 30-year-old managed 24 goals in 35 league appearances last campaign and could be the difference between his team's survival and relegation.

     

    Main Transfer Moves:

    In:

    Sloan Privat (KAA Gent on loan), Julien Feret (Stade Rennais), Emmanuel Imorou (Clermont Foot), Jordan Adeoti (Stade Lavallois), Remy Vercoutre (Olympique Lyonnais), Herve Bazile (Vendee Poire sur Vie Football), Florian Raspentino (Marseille) and Damien Da Silva (Clermont).

    Out:

    Faycal Fajr (Elche CF) and Mathias Autret (FC Lorient).

     

    Expectations:

    Survival will be the only aim for Caen this coming season, anything more will be a bonus.

Evian TG FC

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    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    Coach: Pascal Dupraz.

    Now in his third spell as Evian coach, Dupraz has been in charge since 2012 and overseen two near-miraculous survival acts after an impressive ninth-placed finish in their debut season in Ligue 1. The 51-year-old will be expected to repeat the trick this coming season.

     

    Last Season: 14th in Ligue 1.

    Although 14th place makes it look like Evian avoided the drop with one or two games to spare, the truth was that they entered the final day of last season knowing that the winners of their clash with Sochaux would survive and the losers would drop into Ligue 2. The Savoyard side triumphed and are now entering their fourth campaign as a top-flight outfit.

     

    Key Man: Daniel Wass.

    Danish international Daniel Wass is with the club for the moment, but there is every chance that he will depart before the end of this transfer window. For the past two years, the 25-year-old has been an indispensable part of this Evian side, and his goals and assists often prove crucial. Wass would be difficult—if not impossible—for the side to replace, if he leaves.

     

    Main Transfer Moves:

    In:

    Gianni Bruno (Bastia), Benjamin Leroy (Tours FC), Nicki Nielsen (Rosenborg BK), Youssouf Sabaly (PSG on loan), Fabien Camus (KRC Genk on loan), Jesper Juelsgaard (FC Midtjylland) and Adrien Thomasson (Vannes OC).

    Out:

    Kevin Berigaud (Montpellier HSC), Fabrice Ehret (AS Nancy-Lorraine), Modou Sougou (Marseille), Tulio de Melo, Facundo Bertoglio (Dynamo Kiev), Dan Nistor (CS Pandurii Lignitul Targu Jiu) and Marco Ruben (Dynamo Kiev).

     

    Expectations:

    Once again, survival will be the aim for Dupraz and this Evian side. Stripped of their most prolific goal scorer, Kevin Berigaud, as they were the season before when Saber Khalifa left, they need to find another reliable source of goals if they are to remain a Ligue 1 outfit.

EA Guingamp

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    Remy de la Mauviniere/Associated Press

    Coach: Jocelyn Gourvennec.

    One of the success stories of last season, it is impressive that Guingamp have managed to keep hold of talented coach Jocelyn Gourvennec. The canny 42-year-old not only led them to Ligue 1 survival but also Coupe de France success.

     

    Last Season: 16th in Ligue 1.

    Guingamp managed to secure their top-flight status on the final day of last season, a miracle considering how weak the squad looked compared to the rest of the league.

     

    Key Man: Mustapha Yatabare.

    The Malian international plundered 11 goals in Ligue 1 to help the Breton club secure their place in Le Championnat for this coming season. The 28-year-old bagged 23 goals the season before as Gourvennec’s men gained promotion. Once again, Yatabare will be Guingamp’s key man this coming season.

     

    Main Transfer Moves:

    In:

    Sylvain Marveaux (Newcastle United), Ronnie Schwartz (Randers FC), Lars Jacobsen (FC Copenhagen), Maxime Baca (Lorient), Jonas Lossl (FC Midtjylland), Julien Cardy (Arles Avignon) and Brou Benjamin Angoua (Valenciennes).

    Out:

    Jonathan Martins Pereira (released), Fatih Atik (released), Steeven Langil (Royal Mouscron-Peruwelz), Paul Babiloni (AC Ajaccio) and Guy N'dy Assembe (Nancy).

     

    Expectations:

    Although better equipped this time around, Guingamp still have one of the weakest squads in Ligue 1. Anything more than surviving will be a bonus for Gourvennec and his players. Managing to keep this side in the top flight would be another impressive achievement for the promising tactician.

RC Lens

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    Jacques Brinon/Associated Press

    Coach: Antoine Kombouare.

    Having been harshly fired by PSG in December of 2011—with Les Parisiens top of Ligue 1—Kombouare had a spell with Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal FC before returning to French football with RC Lens. The charismatic 50-year-old led Les Sang et Or to immediate promotion, but he refused to return to work this summer until the club’s Ligue 1 status had been guaranteed, per RMC Radio (h/t ESPN FC’s Ian Holyman).

    Kombouare is now faced with the task of surviving in the top-flight with a threadbare squad, not to mention severe budgetary and transfer restrictions, per ESPN FC’s Ian Holyman. If he is successful in keeping one of France’s most popular clubs back among the elite, the feat would easily rank as his greatest coaching achievement to date.

     

    Last Season: 2nd in Ligue 2.

    Although confirmation of their place in Ligue 1 was delayed considerably, Lens earned the right to return to the top flight after an absence of three seasons. The northern giants finished second in Ligue 2—just one point clear of third-placed Caen—and Kombouare showed once again that he is a specialist in getting the maximum out of a limited group of players.

     

    Key Man: Yoann Touzghar.

    Touzghar netted 12 goals in 30 appearances last season and was Lens’ top scorer. Considering that options will be limited on the transfer market this summer, he will once again be relied upon to score the goals that will ensure that Kombouare’s side remain in Le Championnat.

     

    Main Transfer Moves:

    In:

    N/A

    Out:

    Marcel Tisserand (AS Monaco/Toulouse), Remy Bonne (Arles), Edgar Salli (Monaco) and Alphonse Areola (PSG/Bastia).

     

    Expectations:

    Although a club the size and stature of Lens should arguably be aiming for more that just survival in Ligue 1, Les Sang et Or are fortunate to even be preparing for top-flight football this coming season. Avoiding relegation is their one and only objective, and even that would be a massive achievement.

Lille OSC

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    Michel Spingler/Associated Press

    Coach: Rene Girard.

    Having led Montpellier to an improbable Ligue 1 title in 2011/12, Girard’s next move was to take over at Lille following the departure of Rudi Garcia at the end of 2012/13. His debut season with Les Dogues was impressive, leading the northerners’ limited squad to a third-place finish and a return to the UEFA Champions League.

     

    Last Season: 3rd in Ligue 1.

    Basing Lille’s strength on a rock-solid defence, Girard managed to return the club to European football’s top table. Now, the challenge is to go one better and perhaps compete with PSG for this coming season’s Ligue 1 title.

     

    Key Man: Vincent Enyeama.

    Without the talented Nigerian international goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama—as well as the likes of Marko Basa and Simon Kjaer—Lille would have been far from impenetrable at the back. Losing any one of the three this summer would have been a big blow, but the 31-year-old African stopper single-handedly kept teams at bay on a number of occasions last season. Enyeama is truly indispensable for LOSC.

     

    Main Transfer Moves:

    In:

    Sebastien Corchia (Sochaux), Marco Lopes (Manchester City) and Divock Origi (Liverpool on loan).

    Out:

    Gianni Bruno (Evian) and Divock Origi (Liverpool).

     

    Expectations:

    Challenging for the title is a stretch too far for Lille without greater investment. However, if the defence remains as solid at it was last season and they can add a clinical goal scoring presence along with some creative talent, then there is no reason why Les Dogues cannot finish second.

FC Lorient

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    Bernat Armangue/Associated Press

    Coach: Sylvain Ripoll.

    Another new coach, Lorient’s Sylvain Ripoll has replaced Christian Gourcuff, who took over Algeria after 11 years at the helm. The wily 59-year-old has enjoyed three different spells with Les Merlus, but opted to leave the club at the end of last season. Ripoll, his long time assistant, is now in charge and will hope to pick up where his mentor left off.

     

    Last Season: 8th in Ligue 1.

    Aside from a seventh-place finish in the 2009/10 season, the last two terms—both producing eighth-place finishes—rank as two of Lorient’s best-ever seasons in Ligue 1. For Gourcuff, the man responsible for all three of those excellent showings, he did not feel confident of being able to repeat the trick again this coming term. Considering the club’s frustrating habit of selling its best talents too early, Gourcuff's decision is perhaps understandable.

     

    Key Man: Vincent Aboubakar.

    The signing of Jordan Ayew from Marseille is a coup for Lorient, but the real transfer market success so far has been the Bretons’ ability to keep hold of last season’s star man Vincent Aboubakar. The Cameroon international bagged himself an impressive 16 goals and six assists in 35 appearances, brilliant when you consider that he arrived at Stade du Moustoir on a free transfer last summer.

    Aboubakar will be central to Ripoll’s plans for the new, post-Gourcuff Lorient, and the 22-year-old will be expected to continue scoring and providing in equal measure.

     

    Main Transfer Moves:

    In:

    Benjamin Jeannot (Nancy), Jordan Ayew (Marseille), Walid Mesloub (Le Havre AC), Mathias Autret (Caen) and Vincent Le Goff (FC Istres).

    Out:

    Jeremie Aliadiere (Umm Salal), Gregory Bourillon (Stade de Reims), Maxime Baca (Guingamp), Kevin Monnet-Paquet (AS Saint-Etienne) and Larry Azouni (Marseille).

    Expectations:

    Although capable of aiming higher, Lorient’s primary objective will always be to secure survival as early as possible because of their relatively small size. If they can do that by early 2015, a European position could be a possibility. Much depends on how Ripoll takes to being the main man.

Olympique Lyonnais

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    Laurent Cipriani/Associated Press

    Coach: Hubert Fournier.

    After successfully helping Reims to punch above their weight in Ligue 1 for the past two seasons after leading them all the way up from the third tier of French football, former Lyon player Hubert Fournier has now been handed the chance to take the reins at Stade Gerland. It will be a test for Fournier, but OL have the potential to be a major player in Le Championnat again.

     

    Last Season: 5th in Ligue 1.

     

    Key Man: Alexandre Lacazette.

    Last season was a breakout campaign for Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette, with 15 goals and three assists to his name from 36 league appearances—trebling his previous best-ever tally. For now, Les Gones look as if they will hold on to the talented 23-year-old for at least one more term. Lacazette is going to be key to Fournier’s hopes of future progress.

     

    Main Transfer Moves:

    In:

    Lindsay Rose (Valenciennes) and Christophe Jallet (PSG).

    Out:

    Bafetimbi Gomis (Swansea City), Jimmy Briand (released), Remy Vercoutre (Caen) and Naby Sarr (Sporting CP).

     

    Expectations:

    Although Lyon were once the dominant force in French football, they are now living a much different existence. Title challenges are a thing of the past and qualification for Europe is the best that the seven-time champions can hope for.

Olympique de Marseille

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    Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

    Coach: Marcelo Bielsa.

    One of this summer’s most intriguing coaching appointments has been that of Marcelo Bielsa as Marseille’s new tactician. The Argentine is something of a cult hero and takes over an OM side that has struggled in recent seasons under Didier Deschamps, Elie Baup and Jose Anigo, despite one good campaign under Baup’s leadership. Bielsa is expected to reinvigorate Marseille.

     

    Last Season: 6th in Ligue 1.

    Although not as bad as 2011-12’s 10th-place finish, last season was one to forget for Marseille. Baup was relieved of his duties mid-season after a wretched start and poor showing in Europe. The malaise continued until the end of the season, culminating in Les Phoceens missing out on Europe.

     

    Key Man: Andre-Pierre Gignac.

    Marseille’s top scorer for the last two seasons has been Andre-Pierre Gignac, and with Mathieu Valbuena now gone, the Frenchman will enter the new season as the team’s undoubted key man. A number of new arrivals could quickly usurp him though, as could the talented Florian Thauvin.

     

    Main Transfer Moves:

    In:

    Romain Alessandrini (Rennes), Michy Batshuayi (Standard Liege), Morgan Amalfitano (West Bromwich Albion), Modou Sougou (Evian), Foued Kadir (Rennes) and Larry Azouni (Lorient).

    Out:

    Mathieu Valbuena (Dynamo Moscow), Souleymane Diawara (released), Jordan Ayew (Lorient), Saber Khalifa (Club Africain), Florian Raspentino (Caen), Larry Azouni (Nimes) and Gennaro Bracigliano (released).

     

    Expectations:

    After last season’s failure to reach Europe, nothing less than qualification for either the UEFA Champions league or Europa League will do.

FC Metz

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    Jacques Brinon/Associated Press

    Coach: Albert Cartier.

    Metz coach Albert Cartier has led his team to two successive promotions. Now in the top flight, the 53-year-old faces a major challenge to make sure that Les Grenats remain there beyond this coming season.

     

    Last Season: 1st in Ligue 2.

    Despite facing challenges from the likes of Lens and Caen—both having played in Ligue 1 more recently than Metz—Cartier’s men comfortably won the second-tier title last term. Eleven points was the ultimate difference, completing an impressive recovery from their relegation from Ligue 2 in 2011/12 after four seasons there.

     

    Key Man: Diafra Sakho.

    Crucial to Metz’s promotion back to the big time were Diafra Sakho’s goals, and the 24-year-old will once again be Les Grenats’ main goalscoring threat. The Franco-Senegalese attacker’s ability to adapt to life in Ligue 1—like Guingamp’s Mustapha Yatabare last season—could prove to be key.

     

    Main Transfer Moves:

    In:

    Guirane N'Daw (PAE Asteras Tripolis), Juan Manuel Falcon (Zamora), Jose Luiz Palomino (Argentinos Juniors), Cheick Doukoure (Lorient), Jonathan Rivierez (Le Havre AC) and David Oberhauser (UTA Arad).

    Out:

    Nicolas Fauvergue (Ajaccio) and Eduardo (retired).

     

    Expectations:

    Survival is the one and only aim for Metz this coming season.

AS Monaco

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Coach: Leonardo Jardim.

    At the end of last season, Monaco made the risky decision to part ways with coach Claudio Ranieri after the Italian had led them to second place in Ligue 1 in their first campaign back in the French top flight. Replacing Ranieri is the promising—but relatively unproven—Leonardo Jardim, and the Portuguese has a big act to follow at Stade Louis II.

     

    Last Season: 2nd in Ligue 1.

    Back in the top flight after a two-year absence, Monaco spent big last summer—Les Monegasques luring the likes of Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez to the principality. Ranieri turned what was essentially a new squad into title challengers inside of one season, yet he was still shown the door.

     

    Key Man: Radamel Falcao.

    Although last season was one to forget for Falcao, the Colombian is still Monaco’s main man. El Tigre will be looking to make up for lost time and keen to erase the painful memories of his first foray into French football that yielded a paltry nine goals and an injury that shattered his FIFA World Cup dreams.

     

    Main Transfer Moves:

    In:

    Tiemoue Bakayoko (Rennes), Fabinho (Rio Ave FC on loan), Aymen Abdennour (Toulouse), Marcel Tisserand (Lens), Paul Nardi (Nancy), Lacina Traore (Everton), Gary Kagelmacher (Valenciennes), Edgar Salli (Lens), Carl Medjani (Valenciennes) and Borja Lopez (Rayo Vallecano).

    Out:

    James Rodriguez (Real Madrid), Emmanuel Riviere (Newcastle), Eric Abidal (Olympiacos), Mounir Obbadi (Hellas Verona), Marcel Tisserand (Toulouse), Sergio Romero (Sampdoria), Paul Nardi (Nancy) and Gary Kagelmacher (TSV 1860 Munich).

     

    Expectations:

    While expectations should arguably be to push PSG closer in the title race this coming season, Monaco’s relatively quiet summer suggests that Les Monegasques do not see themselves as being able to develop into a realistic rival for the capital club just yet. So they will instead just be targeting another Champions League qualifying position at the end of the season.

Montpellier HSC

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    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

    Coach: Rolland Courbis.

    Brought in to steady the ship midway through last term after the disastrous reign of Jean Fernandez, Rolland Courbis is in his second spell as Montpellier coach. The experienced 60-year-old guided La Paillade to safety last season and will be expected to do the same again this time around.

     

    Last Season: 15th in Ligue 1.

    Considering the bad shape the club was in when Courbis arrived at Stade de la Mosson late in 2013, last season’s 15th-place finish was actually a good achievement. Although they only finished an two points above relegated Sochaux, Montpellier improved greatly under Courbis.

     

    Key Man: Benjamin Stambouli.

    With Remy Cabella now gone, the burden of leading this depleted Montpellier side will fall to another home-grown talent in Benjamin Stambouli. Provided that he remains in Langudoc-Roussillon past the end of this summer’s transfer window, the versatile 23-year-old will be Courbis’ star man.

     

    Main Transfer Moves:

    In:

    Kevin Berigaud (Evian), Paul Lasne (Ajaccio) and Dylan Gissi (Olimpo).

    Out:

    Remy Cabella (Newcastle), M'Baye Niang (AC Milan), Emmanuel Herrera (Emelec) and Garry Bocaly (Arles Avignon).

     

    Expectations:

    Although simply surviving could be expected to be Montpellier’s objective for the coming season based on last-term’s showing, Courbis and his players will be required to start pushing their way back up the Ligue 1 ladder towards mid-table.

FC Nantes

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    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    Coach: Michel Der Zakarian.

    Now in his second spell as Nantes coach, the 2014/15 season could prove to be the toughest yet for Les Canaris’ Michel Der Zakarian. With his hands tied by the current transfer embargo in place at the club, per ESPN FC’s Mark Rodden, the 51-year-old has been unable to strengthen the squad at his disposal and lost last season’s top scorer Filip Djordjevic on a free transfer over the summer.

     

    Last Season: 13th in Ligue 1.

    After being hit with a points deduction for fielding an illegible player in their Ligue 1 clash with Bastia, per ESPN FC’s Ian Holyman, Nantes’ impressive early season form dropped away and they plummeted down the table in the early part of 2014. Djordjevic’s goals were a main source of points, and with the player now gone, Nantes must somehow replace the Serb from within.

     

    Key Man: Jordan Veretout.

    With no Djordjevic to lead the side anymore, the responsibility will now fall to talented young midfielder Jordan Veretout.

     

    Main Transfer Moves:

    In:

    Itay Shechter (Hapoel Tel-Aviv), Kian Hansen (Esbjerg fB) and Johan Audel (VfB Stuttgart).

    Out:

    Filip Djordjevic (SS Lazio), Adrien Trebel (Standard) and Banel Nicolita (AS Saint-Etienne).

     

    Expectations:

    With the transfer embargo in place, it would be foolish for Nantes to hope for much more than simply preserving their Ligue 1 status.

OGC Nice

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Coach: Claude Puel.

    Heading into his third season in the job with Nice, Claude Puel faces a crucial campaign in his bid to turn Les Aiglons into one of Ligue 1’s better sides. He succeeded spectacularly in his first season, but he has since struggled to help the Cote d’Azur side progress. They finished just two points off relegation last term.

     

    Last Season: 17th in Ligue 1.

    After their impressive fourth-place finish the season before, Nice were expected to build on that progress last campaign and qualify for Europe once again. However, Puel’s side were lucky to not get relegated after a dreadful term and came extremely close to the drop after losing their impressive form from the season before.

     

    Key Man: Valentin Eysseric.

    An extremely talented and versatile midfielder, an in-form Valentin Eysseric is a formidable weapon for Nice. If Puel can help him to rediscover his best form—along with the likes of Dario Cvitanich, too—then Les Aiglons could yet soar once again.

     

    Main Transfer Moves:

    In:

    Niklas Hult (IF Elfsborg) and Joris Delle (Cercle Brugge).

    Out:

    Nemanja Pejcinovic (Lokomotiv Moscow), David Ospina (Arsenal), Christian Bruls (Gent/Rennes), Fabrice Abriel (Valenciennes) and Luigi Bruins (released).

     

    Expectations:

    Last season’s brush with relegation should not detract from the good job that Puel has done with Nice so far. The talented 52-year-old will feel that mid-table is a suitable position for this current side.

Paris Saint-Germain

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    Victor Fraile/Getty Images

    Coach: Laurent Blanc.

    Moving into his second season in charge of PSG, Laurent Blanc has set the bar high for himself this time around. Not only did he lead Les Parisiens to a number of record-breaking feats en route to their second consecutive Ligue 1 title, Le President also took them to Coupe de la Ligue glory and came close to inspiring them to the Champions League semi-finals.

     

    Last Season: 1st in Ligue 1.

    From the moment that PSG hit Ligue 1’s top spot in October, there was no looking back. The side from the capital went on to sweep aside every team put in front of them in Le Championnat, and they finished nine points better off than Monaco in second.

     

    Key Man: Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

    There are no illusions that, at PSG, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the main man. The Swede top scored for Blanc’s side for a second consecutive season, and without the 32-year-old, the team would simply not be the same.

     

    Main Transfer Moves:

    In:

    David Luiz (Chelsea), Serge Aurier (Toulouse on loan), Clement Chantome (Toulouse), Jean-Christophe Bahebeck (Valenciennes) and Antoine Conte (Reims).

    Out:

    Alex (AC Milan), Jeremy Menez (AC Milan), Christophe Jallet (Lyon), Alphonse Areola (Bastia), Youssouf Sabaly (Evian) and Kingsley Coman (Juventus).

     

    Expectations:

    Once again, PSG’s objective ahead of this season will be to win everything, especially the Champions League. Ligue 1 and both domestic cups are seen as PSG’s bread and butter, though, and Les Parisiens are expected to assert their authority once again.

Stade de Reims

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    Claude Paris/Associated Press

    Coach: Jean-Luc Vasseur.

    After leading US Creteil-Lusitanos to Ligue 2, having spent a number of year’s coaching at youth level for PSG, Jean-Luc Vasseur has made it to Ligue 1. Appointed as Hubert Fournier’s replacement after he left for Lyon, Vasseur is taking a risk in taking over a side that was already punching above its weight.

     

    Last Season: 11th in Ligue 1.

    For a large part of last season, Reims were safely ensconced in the top half of the Ligue 1 table and looked like possible contenders for a European place. Those hopes died off eventually, but it did not detract from the excellent job done by Fournier.

     

    Key Man: Kossi Agassa.

    With Polish international midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak now gone, there is no doubt as to who is Reims’ key player. Goalkeeper Kossi Agassa has been one of Le Championnat’s best shot-stoppers for the past two seasons, and the Togo international contributes a good number of points per season thanks to his clean sheets.

     

    Main Transfer Moves:

    In:

    Benjamin Moukandjo (Nancy), Gregory Bourillon (Lorient) and Antoine Conte (PSG).

    Out:

    Grzegorz Krychowiak (Sevilla) and Floyd Ayite (Bastia).

     

    Expectations:

    Following Fournier’s exit, it will be difficult for Vasseur to follow in his footsteps and continue the excellent progress made after a number of important players have departed. There have been additions, but Krychowiak’s loss is a big blow, and the team will do well to finish mid-table again this time around.

Stade Rennais

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    Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

    Coach: Philippe Montanier.

    Having decided to leave Real Sociedad for Rennes, Philippe Montanier’s first season back in Ligue 1 did not go according to plan. The Breton side struggled for large parts of the campaign but eventually managed to secure a 12th-place finish. A Coupe de France final defeat to local rivals Guingamp did not cost Montanier his position.

     

    Last Season: 12th in Ligue 1.

    A late flurry of form ensured that Rennes kept their heads above water and staved off the threat of relegation, but there were times where it looked increasingly likely. A number of intelligent January transfer dealings arguably saved Montanier and his team.

     

    Key Man: Ola Toivonen.

    One of those January signings was Swedish international Ola Toivonen from PSV Eindhoven. The 28-year-old’s seven goals in 15 appearances arguably keeping Rennes up. The Scandinavian will get a full season in Ligue 1 this time around and Montanier will be asking for more of the same.

     

    Main Transfer Moves:

    In:

    Christian Bruls (Gent), Sanjin Prcic (Sochaux), Benjamin Andre (Ajaccio), Pedro Henrique (FC Zurich), Philipp Hosiner (VfB Admira Wacker Modling), Gjoko Zajkov (FK Rabotnicki Skopje), Olivier Sorin (AJ Auxerre) and Edson Mexer (CD Nacional).

    Out:

    Julien Feret (Caen), Romain Alessandrini (Marseille), John Boye (released), Jonathan Pitroipa (Al Jazira), Tiemoue Bakayoko (Monaco), Dimitri Foulquier (Granada), Foued Kadir (Marseille), Silvio Romero (CA Lanus) and Nelson Oliveira (SL Benfica).

     

    Expectations:

    With Montanier now stamping his authority on this Rennes side, the Bretons will be expected to fare much better than they did last season. A top-half finish should be possible.

AS Saint-Etienne

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    Rasmus Baaner/Associated Press

    Coach: Christophe Galtier.

    One of Ligue 1’s most talented coaches, Christophe Galtier continues to work wonders with Saint-Etienne. Three Top 10 finishes—each progressively higher than the last—have been achieved with a number of important players being sold at the end of each season. It is something of a surprise that the 47-year-old has not been snapped up by a bigger club this summer.

     

    Last Season: 4th in Ligue 1.

    Having finished seventh and then fifth under Galtier in past seasons, Les Verts managed to go one better and finish fourth in 2013/14 to secure European football this coming season. However, the gifted tactician has arguably taken the side as far as he can. Without further investment, his project at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard will begin to stagnate.

     

    Key Man: Romain Hamouma.

    Scorer of nine goals and the creator of four more in 34 league matches last season, Romain Hamouma is the creative talent of this Saint-Etienne team. There might be a number of quality players in other positions in Galtier’s team, but Hamouma is indispensable.

     

    Main Transfer Moves:

    In:

    Kevin Monnet-Paquet (Lorient) and Banel Nicolita (Nantes).

    Out:

    Kurt Zouma (Chelsea), Josuha Guilavogui (Atletico Madrid), Brandao (Bastia), Jean-Pascal Mignot (Sochaux) and Lynel Kitambala (RSC Charleroi).

     

    Expectations:

    Despite last season’s excellent progress, a handful of players have been allowed to leave and only one new face has arrived so far this summer. Without further reinforcements, Saint-Etienne look unlikely to build on their recent progress and could slip back down toward mid-table.

Toulouse

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    Michel Euler/Associated Press

    Coach: Alain Casanova.

    Now one of Ligue 1’s longest-serving coaches, having been in charge of Toulouse since 2008, Alain Casanova has experienced mixed fortunes with TFC. Last season was one of progress, though, finishing ninth after a 10th-place position the season before. Only once under Casanova have Toulouse finished lower than 10th.

     

    Last Season: 9th in Ligue 1.

    Despite rarely impressing last season, Toulouse managed to finish in Ligue 1’s top half thanks to a strong run of form in late February/early March. That is all that was asked of Casanova, and he delivered once again, despite the criticisms of him for TFC’s style of play.

     

    Key Man: Wissam Ben Yedder.

    With 16 goals from 38 appearances last season, Wissam Ben Yedder is undoubtedly Toulouse’s key man. The season before last, he managed to score 15 in four less matches. The 23-year-old is one of the best discoveries made by Casanova during his time at Stade Municipal, and it is a surprise that a bigger European club has yet to swoop for him.

     

    Main Transfer Moves:

    In:

    William Matheus (Cianorte Futebol Clube), Aleksandar Pesic (FK Jagodina), Dragos Grigore (FC Dinamo Bucharest), Maxime Spano (ES Pennoise) and Marcel Tisserand (Monaco).

    Out:

    Eden Ben Basat (Maccabi Tel Aviv FC), Jonathan Zebina (released), Aymen Abdennour (Monaco), Serge Aurier (PSG) and Clement Chantome (PSG).

     

    Expectations:

    Although Casanova always seems to find a way to succeed, despite his limited resources, this season could be a real test for the 52-year-old after the departures of key players such as Serge Aurier, Clement Chantome and Jonathan Zebina. Mid-table is again a likely outcome.