Another Ligue 1 campaign begins on Friday after a big window for French football, the highlight of which was Paris Saint-Germain retaining Kylian Mbappe.

New arrivals in the league include returns for Lyon duo Alexandre Lacazette and Corentin Tolisso, while high-profile departures have seen Aurelien Tchouameni, Sven Botman and Nayef Aguerd depart.

With PSG once again investing heavily in their squad, adding the likes of Vitinha, Hugo Ekitike and Nordi Mukiele, the capital club are widely expected to storm to another title – but can there be an upset?

The verdict, unsurprisingly, is probably not – as Stats Perform AI predicted the outcome of the coming campaign, estimating the likelihood of teams finishing in each position informed by their expected results in each match.

These are calculated using betting odds and Stats Perform's team rankings – based on historical and recent team performances – and, while the title race is not likely to get going, there are some big battles elsewhere in the division.

PSG PARTY ONCE AGAIN

With one of the most expensive squads ever assembled, including the devastating attack of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, PSG are unsurprisingly expected to romp to another Ligue 1 success.

Having won eight of the last nine titles, Stats Perform AI has given PSG a 76.01 per cent chance of retaining their crown.

Marseille, runners-up last season, are seen as the side most capable of mounting a challenge, though their 7.29 per cent chance is slim. Monaco, title winners in 2016-17, are given a 6.55 per cent chance.

Lyon, once the dominant force in French football, have just a 4.29 per cent chance, while Rennes clock in at 3.44 per cent and Lille, the last side to prevent PSG from winning the title having lifted the trophy in 2020-21, have only a 0.71 per cent chance.

The gulf in class within French football is highlighted by the fact that nine teams, almost half of the division, are seen as having no hope in mounting a title challenge.

 

SCRAMBLE FOR EUROPEAN FOOTBALL

Unlike the other top leagues in European football, France has a limited number of places for qualification for UEFA competitions with just two guaranteed Champions League spots, one qualifying spot, one spot in the Europa League group stage and one in the Europa Conference League play-offs.

With PSG expected to surge to the title and take the first of the two group stage spots in the Champions League, with a 90.93 per cent likelihood, the scrap for the other automatic qualification spot could be fierce.

Marseille are seen as the favourites in that battle with a 29.97 per cent chance, with Monaco following suit with a 29.97 per cent chance.

Elsewhere, Lyon have an 18.7 per cent chance, with Rennes at 15.53 per cent, though they may have to settle for a third-place finish or a spot in the Europa League.

In the battle for fifth, and a play-off spot in the Conference League, it's also expected to be tight – with five clubs, as well as those already mentioned above, given at least a five per cent chance of reaching that spot.

Nice, Lens, Lille, Nantes and Strasbourg are all in with an outside shot of gunning for a spot in European competition, which could set up a thrilling battle.

 

REGULATION CHANGES INCREASE RELEGATION FIGHT

With Ligue 1 reducing to 18 teams from the 2023-24 season, the fight to avoid the drop to the second-tier will be fiercer than ever with the bottom four all being relegated – and there will be no play-offs either.

The situation looks bleak for Ajaccio (57.64 per cent chance of relegation), Clermont (57.57), Troyes (56.72) and Lorient (53.92), all of which are seen as more likely to suffer relegation than they are to avoid the drop.

Auxerre (46.58) and Toulouse (34.02) could also find themselves looking over their shoulders during the course of the season, while PSG, Marseille and Monaco are the three sides given no chance leaving the league through the bottom.

Of the promoted trio, it is Toulouse who are given the best chance of maintaining their top-flight status for another season – with their most likely position being 15th, with a 10.59 per cent chance of securing that spot.

Christophe Galtier praised Paris Saint-Germain's "desire" after they won the Trophee des Champions with a resounding 4-0 victory over Nantes on Sunday.

Lionel Messi opened the scoring at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv, before Neymar doubled their advantage with a fine free-kick.

Sergio Ramos added a third, with Neymar grabbing his second from the penalty spot late on after an incident that saw Jean-Charles Castelletto dismissed.

PSG reclaimed the Trophee des Champions after their streak of eight consecutive wins was ended by Lille last season, and Galtier was delighted with his side's application in his first competitive game at the helm.

"We played a very serious match and I like the fact that we approached with great desire and determination," he told Amazon Prime Video. 

"We created some good chances at the start of the match and they had one or two of their own. 

"We were consistent and I saw players making a lot of effort; that's important to me. It's a great victory. It's good to bring the trophy back to Paris."

PSG cruised to the Ligue 1 title last season, yet they came under heavy criticism after throwing away a two-goal aggregate lead to crash out of the Champions League at the hands of Real Madrid at the last 16 stage.

That ultimately led to Mauricio Pochettino losing his job at the end of the campaign, and Galtier says he has seen enough during his brief tenure at the club to suggest the players are ready to right last season's wrongs.

"I think PSG were criticised last season when they were champions," he added. 

"These are players that I have observed a lot, with whom I discuss things. There must be a group dynamic, a team. What we have done over the past four or five weeks has gone very well.

"You have to be focused; the slightest word that derails goes around the world. 

"We have frank, direct exchanges with the players. We talk a lot about world stars but they are above all players, who like to play, who want to win trophies. We must help them without compromise."

PSG start their Ligue 1 defence away at Clermont on Saturday. 

Lionel Messi and Neymar were on target as Paris Saint-Germain thumped Nantes 4-0 to win the Trophee des Champions on Sunday.

Kylian Mbappe did not travel to Israel for the clash at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv, but his absence was not felt as Christophe Galtier started his reign as PSG boss in style. 

Messi set the Ligue 1 champions on their way in the 22nd minute with a cool finish, before Neymar doubled their advantage with a superb whipped free-kick from 25 yards on the stroke of half-time.

Sergio Ramos made it 3-0 shortly before the hour mark with an improvised finish, then Neymar claimed a second late on from the penalty spot after an incident that saw Jean-Charles Castelletto dismissed.

Achraf Hakimi and Pablo Sarabia went close for PSG inside the opening 10 minutes, while at the other end Ludovic Blas was superbly denied by Gianluigi Donnarumma.

PSG went ahead in the 22nd minute when Messi rounded Alban Lafont and slotted home after latching onto Neymar's deflected throughball.

Lafont got down well to deny Messi a second shortly before the interval, yet Galtier's men did go in at the break with a two-goal lead courtesy of Neymar's sumptuous free-kick.

Ramos added a third in the 57th minute, the former Real Madrid defender superbly backheeling into the net after Lafont had kept out Sarabia's initial effort. 

Neymar scored his second in the 82nd minute with a calm penalty after he had been brought down in the area by Castelletto, who was shown a red card by referee Orel Grinfeeld.

Christophe Galtier and Nice have strongly condemned chants from their supporters about the late Emiliano Sala.

Former Nantes striker Sala died in a plane crash in January 2019 as he travelled from France to the United Kingdom having signed for Cardiff City.

Sala was a hugely popular figure at Nantes, and supporters of the Ligue 1 club sang his name as they won the Coupe de France on Saturday. Nantes beat Nice 1-0 in the final.

But in Nice's first match since their defeat, sections of their home crowd in a 4-2 win over Saint-Etienne could be heard directing derogatory chants towards Sala.

Head coach Galtier was shocked by the abuse, revealing it was the focus of he and the Nice team after the match.

"I don't have words to describe what I heard," Galtier said. "One of the first reactions in the dressing room was not our songs, shouts of joy or relief. It was to talk about what the players heard.

"On behalf of my dressing room, my technical staff, my medical staff, the players, we would like to apologise to the family of Emiliano Sala and FC Nantes."

A Nice statement read: "OGC Nice condemns in the strongest terms the chant about Emiliano Sala heard on Wednesday evening at the Allianz Riviera.

"The club does not recognise its values or those of the entire red and black family in this unthinkable and abject provocation of a minority of its supporters.

"OGC Nice extends its support to the family and loved ones of Emiliano Sala."

Nantes, who beat Rennes 2-1 on Wednesday, also responded to news of the incident.

"I'm outraged," said coach Antoine Kombouare. "These people have no place in stadiums. They should be banned.

"It's shameful, I feel sorry for the family. I knew the fans could be stupid, but these are donkeys."

A Nantes statement added: "FC Nantes has discovered with horror the content of the chants of some OGC Nice supporters and can only strongly condemn such acts degrading the memory of Emiliano Sala.

"At the same time, FC Nantes would like to thank OGC Nice and its coach Christophe Galtier for their support and their firm condemnation of such remarks.

"FC Nantes as a whole supports Emiliano's family and loved ones."

Nantes captain Ludovic Blas said he "was taken for a madman" after insisting the club had a good team last year, but had the last laugh after lifting the Coupe de France on Saturday.

La Maison Jaune beat Nice 1-0 in the final at the Stade de France thanks to Blas' penalty early in the second half.

The 24-year-old midfielder emphatically drilled home his spot-kick after Hicham Boudaoui handled and that was enough for Nantes to win their first major trophy for 21 years, marking the fourth time the club has lifted the Coupe de France.

It has been quite the comeback story for Nantes, who only avoided slipping down to Ligue 2 last season after beating Toulouse on away goals in the relegation playoff.

“Last year, I persisted in saying that we had a good team. I persisted," Blas said after lifting the cup. "I was just saying that, and we had talented players. I was taken for a madman. 

"Now, I would like people to remember that, and not take me for a fool. Frankly, it's the most beautiful thing that could happen. Being this close to going down to Ligue 2, and winning the Coupe de France shows that I really wasn't wrong about this team."

Nantes boss Antoine Kombouare was just as impressed by what he had witnessed, also referencing the journey from nearly being relegated to sealing a place in European football next season.

"We had to stay strong, despite the pressure of what was at stake, we had come from nowhere," he told reporters after the game. "A year ago, we could die and end up in Ligue 2, and here we won the Coupe de France and we will play the Europa League.

"I was reminded that we [are] going to play the Trophee des Champions. Can you imagine the difference? It's hard to believe. It is something exceptional, unique, almost miraculous."

Kombouare also revealed a conversation he had when he gave Blas the captaincy, with the player appearing to predict the future.

"I'm going to tell you a secret," he said. "During the first match at Sochaux, I gave him the armband in the locker room just before going to warm up, and he immediately said to me: 'Coach, I'm very proud, I will take us to the Stade de France and I will lift the Coupe de France'. I was a prisoner of these words."

Dante says Nice's 1-0 Coupe de France final defeat to Nantes on Saturday will "hurt for a long time".

Ludovic Blas scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot in the first minute of the second half at the Stade de France.

Blas emphatically drilled home his spot-kick after Hicham Boudaoui handled and that was enough for Nantes to win their first major trophy for 21 years.

Nice were left to rue their lack of a cutting edge as they failed to end a trophy drought that stretches back to 1997, when they lifted the Coupe de France for a third time.

Captain Dante was left to reflect on a painful missed opportunity and warned Christophe Galtier's side must respond when they face St Etienne in Ligue 1 on Wednesday, with European qualification not secured.

The Brazilian defender said: "A lot of sadness. We are very disappointed because we really wanted to give this to our supporters and the people that have been waiting for this for so long, but we didn't manage to do so.

"It will hurt for a long time but we need to quickly lift our heads. We have a very important match on Wednesday."

Nice boss Galtier felt his side did not do themselves justice in Paris.

He said: "My feeling is disappointment. When you reach the final and you play for this magnificent trophy, you do everything possible to try to win it. 

"The big regret I have is about our technical quality on an offensive level. We had very little success in what we undertook. We showed too much haste in the game."

He added: "It is a great regret, a very great disappointment."

Ludovic Blas was the hero with a second-half penalty as Nantes ended their 21-year trophy drought by beating Nice 1-0 in the Coupe de France final.

Not since 2001 had Nantes added to their list of honours, but they will play in the Europa League next season after edging Saturday's showdown at the Stade de France.

Blas was on target from the spot in the first minute of the second half after Hicham Boudaoui handled and Stephanie Frappart - the first female to referee a men's Coupe de France final - pointed to the spot.

Nantes held on to to secure a return to Europe, leaving Nice without a trophy since back in 1997.

Amine Gouiri set the tone for a poor first half when his sloppy touch in the penalty area gave Nantes an early let-off.

Blas tried his luck at the other end from just outside the box, but failed to generate enough power on a shot that was saved by Marcin Bulka.

Gouiri's deflected strike flashed wide and Andy Delort should have done better with a header from the resulting corner, with Nantes goalkeeper Alban Lafont flapping.

It was Les Canaris who took the lead right at the start of the second half, Blas emphatically dispatching his spot-kick after Boudaoui handled in the box.

A desperate last-ditch block prevented Moses Simon from doubling Nantes' lead soon after they went in front and Jean-Charles Castelletto headed wide, with Nice looking vulnerable at the back.

Lafont palmed away Delort's drive and showed great reactions to deny Delort following up with 20 minutes to go as Nice failed to conjure up an equaliser.

 

Mauricio Pochettino declared himself 'satisfied' with PSG's win over Angers despite victory for Marseille delaying their coronation as Ligue 1 champions.

The Paris club needed to better their title rivals' result on Wednesday to clinch a 10th championship, and held up their end of the bargain as goals from Kylian Mbappe, Sergio Ramos and Marquinhos secured a 3-0 win.

However, Marseille twice overturned Nantes leads in their game to secure three points and take the title race into the weekend.

Not that Pochettino was too disappointed, the Argentine saying: "Winning the championship as soon as possible is the best possible [outcome].

"It's not possible at the moment, but we had a good game and took the three points. That is most important. 

"It's never easy, but I think it's a good performance from us. I am very satisfied with my players and these three points.

"I hope we can do it all together on Saturday at the Parc des Princes."

PSG's win was somewhat soured by the controversial late dismissal of young substitute Edouard Michut following a VAR review.

Replays appeared to show that the 19-year-old had only caught Romain Thomas with a high challenge as a direct result of a foul on him from Enzo Ebosse.

Of the decision, Pochettino added: "Edouard didn't do it on purpose. I do not understand the red card even if the action was of course dangerous. 

"It really wasn't [his fault]. I am very disappointed with this and hope they can review the images and remove the card." 

Nantes returned to the Coupe de France final for the first time since 1999-2000 after Monaco's big names failed from 12 yards in a 4-2 shoot-out reverse on Wednesday.

Les Canaris have not played in French football's showpiece match since winning the cup in consecutive seasons at the turn of the century, but they can now look ahead to a date with Nice.

Poor defending at both ends had seen Nantes and Monaco play out a 2-2 draw at the Beaujoire, with Guillermo Maripan and Myron Boadu scoring headers either side of two home goals – Djibril Sidibe's first-half own goal and then a scrappy Samuel Moutoussamy strike.

The tie was therefore settled on penalties, and Wissam Ben Yedder was denied by Remy Descamps before Aurelien Tchouameni missed the target to give Nantes a two-goal advantage they would not cede.

Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo hit out at the officials after the Parisians slipped to a 3-1 loss at Nantes, claiming referee Mikael Lesage favoured the hosts throughout their second loss of the Ligue 1 season.

PSG found themselves 3-0 down at half-time in an absorbing contest, during which both teams were awarded penalties, Ludovic Blas scoring from the spot for the hosts before Neymar's inexplicable second-half penalty miss halted a potential comeback from the visitors.

Meanwhile, home defender Dennis Appiah saw a first-half red card correctly overturned by VAR, before being fortunate to avoid a second booking when giving away PSG's spot-kick, and the visitors were enraged by Nicolas Pallois' tackle on Kylian Mbappe.

Speaking to Canal+ after the contest, Leonardo admitted the French league leaders did not perform well, but fumed at the officiating of the match.

"It was a tough game for us," the Brazilian said. "After a Champions League match, we knew we were the team to beat. We conceded two goals and it was deserved. 

"[But] afterwards, all the choices [of the officials] were against us. He announced a minute of added time [at the end of the first half] and then the [Nantes] penalty [eventually taken six minutes into injury-time] comes four minutes later. 

"I think there is an urge to whistle against us. The referee doesn't even whistle [for Pallois' challenge]. You risk players having three months out with an injury.

"Afterwards, Appiah concedes a penalty, and he does not give yellow when it would have been red [for two bookable offences].

"The match was no longer controlled, for us as well as for Nantes, it was completely out of control."

 

PSG's Italian midfielder Marco Verratti was one of the eight players booked during an ill-tempered affair, and was also incensed by the decision not to award Appiah a second booking for his 58th-minute foul on Mbappe.

"Sometimes the referee says we can talk to him, this evening, we couldn't at all," the 29-year-old told Canal+. "He's the only referee in the world who does things like that. 

"Normally, a penalty is a yellow card and therefore a red card. How is it possible not to show a yellow card [to Appiah]? I think the referees have to take responsibility because there, we were s*** on by the refereeing."

Despite holding a 13-point lead at the Ligue 1 summit, Mauricio Pochettino's team have only won three of their last nine away league matches (drawing four and losing two), after winning 11 of their previous 12.

Paris Saint-Germain fell to just their second defeat of the Ligue 1 season as Mauricio Pochettino's side were beaten 3-1 by Nantes at Stade de la Beaujoire.

Goals from Randal Kolo Muani, Quentin Merlin and a Ludovic Blas penalty handed the home team an incredible 3-0 half-time lead, with goalkeeper Alban Lafont starring for the hosts.

Neymar pulled one back immediately after the restart before seeing a soft penalty effort saved on the hour and Nantes held on for the win, moving into fifth place in the French top-flight.

PSG remain well clear at the top of Ligue 1, but this was not how Pochettino will have envisaged following up their impressive 1-0 win against Real Madrid in the Champions League in midweek.

Nantes took a shock lead just three minutes into the game with Kolo Muani rounding off an efficient break by flicking home just seconds after Juan Bernat had forced a good save from Lafont.

The Nantes stopper made an excellent save from Lionel Messi moments later, before Merlin fired a stunning left-footed strike into the top corner from the edge of the area on 15 minutes, his first goal of the season.

Lafont denied Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, and Idrissa Gueye in an inspired performance, before Dennis Appiah had a red card correctly overturned after a VAR check. 

Another VAR intervention gave Nantes a penalty before half-time that Blas hammered home after Georginio Wijnaldum's clumsy handball.

Mauricio Pochettino has moved to defend Lionel Messi after the Paris Saint-Germain forward's missed penalty against Real Madrid.

Although Kylian Mbappe's superb late winner put the Parisians on the brink of the Champions League quarter-finals, Messi's performance in the first leg drew criticism.

Since his first season in the competition (2004-05), no player has missed more Champions League penalties than Messi, who has failed with five spot-kicks.

But speaking ahead of PSG's Ligue 1 trip to Nantes on Saturday, Pochettino launched a strong defence of his fellow Argentinian.

"Messi is the best in the world," said former Tottenham boss Pochettino. "A player like him, with his experience, and what he means, is the essence of football.

"If you want to explain to someone what football is all about, it is Leo Messi.

"In no way will missing a penalty affect his confidence, that is impossible. If anyone thinks that, they do not understand this sport. 

"I am pleased with his performance. He played well [against Madrid], which was down to his ability to link difference pieces together on the pitch.

"Leo Messi is football."

Messi has struggled for consistency during a stop-start first season in French capital, netting just two league goals from an expected goals tally of 5.82, a notable underperformance of over three goals.

The former Barcelona captain was joined on the pitch against Real Madrid by Neymar, as the substitute provided the assist for Mbappe's match-winning strike with a sumptuous backheel.

Pochettino has confirmed the Brazilian is now in contention to make his first start since suffering an ankle injury against Saint-Etienne last November.

"Neymar could start [against Nantes]," Pochettino said on Friday.

"He has been doing well in training, and he has been very focused at every stage of his recovery, showing his commitment to get back to his best level and help the team.

"We hope that he is over these problems now, and through playing competitive games, that he can reach his best level."

Neymar has suffered a plethora of injury issues since making his own move from Barcelona to Paris in 2017, failing to make over 20 Ligue 1 starts in a single season to date. However, he has managed 59 goals and 34 assists in his 80 league appearances for the capital club.

Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino has revealed he did not have any concerns about Lionel Messi's Ligue 1 goal drought prior to the forward opening his account in the competition against Nantes.

Messi had made five league appearances for the capital club without scoring before netting the third goal in the 3-1 victory at the Parc des Princes on Saturday with his 20th shot in Ligue 1.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner has scored in the Champions League for PSG, however, netting three times in three games so far.

Pochettino explained that neither he nor Messi had any doubt that the goals would start to flow domestically, too, and also made a point of praising the team as a whole.

"I don't think Messi was worried about not having scored in the championship, he's a great champion, the best player in the world," Pochettino said after the game.

"He knows how to go through the most difficult times, he has patience, and it's good that he scored.

"We showed our character, but also showed the quality of the team - we played a very good first half.

"The progress of the MNM [Messi, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe]? I always said it was about making connections, spending time together, and also playing competitive matches.

"But it was the whole team that played a good game, as a whole, to allow these talented players to often find themselves in a position to create chances. Too bad we didn't score more goals in the first half."

Messi expressed his delight at opening his Ligue 1 account, finding the back of the net with a sweet strike from outside the box after receiving the ball from Mbappe.

"I am happy with this first goal, I really wanted it," Messi said to Amazon Prime. "I had several chances before in this match and in previous matches.

"I am very happy with this first goal in the championship, I had already scored in the Champions League. There had been chances, but I had not converted, so I am very happy."

Lionel Messi's first Ligue 1 goal helped Paris Saint-Germain beat Nantes 3-1 at the Parc des Princes despite Keylor Navas getting sent off in the second half. 

The hosts scored in just the second minute as Leandro Paredes' well-hit effort from range took a wicked deflection off Kylian Mbappe in the box and wrong-footed Alban Lafont.

Navas was shown a straight red card in the 65th minute for jumping into Ludovic Blas outside the box as the Nantes midfielder bore down on goal, with Sergio Rico coming on between the sticks and failing to deal with Randal Kolo Muani's header, allowing the forward to backheel an effort at goal that he could not keep from crossing the line.

However, Dennis Appiah deflected Messi's throughball over the goalkeeper and in before the Argentine grabbed his first league goal for PSG with a terrific long-range strike.

PSG took the lead inside the first two minutes, with Paredes taking an effort on from long range that struck Mbappe in the box and deflected past a stranded Lafont in the Nantes goal.

Nantes' hopes of snatching an unlikely result were boosted when Navas raced off his line to deal with a ball in behind in the second half, but misjudged the bounce and was sent off after catching Blas with a trailing leg.

Substitute goalkeeper Rico made a mess of saving Kolo Muani's powerful headed effort and could only get to the follow-up after it had crossed the line in the 76th minute, but Nantes full-back Appiah's comedy own goal five minutes later put PSG back in front.

Messi then stole the headlines in the 87th minute, cutting onto his left foot outside the box and unleashing a superb strike into the bottom-left corner to seal the points for PSG.

Page 1 of 2
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.