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.

Marco Verratti declared Paris Saint-Germain are "left feeling p***** off" they have nothing to play for after Champions League disappointment and winning Ligue 1.

PSG cruised to a record-equalling 10th French top-flight title – only Saint-Etienne can boast as many – in April, while no player in Ligue 1 history has won as many championships as Verratti (eight).

However, Mauricio Pochettino's side remain in search of an elusive Champions League crown, having been dumped out at the last-16 stage by a remarkable Karim Benzema-inspired Real Madrid turnaround.

Kylian Mbappe scored in either leg to hand PSG a 2-0 lead, before Benzema delivered a second-half hat-trick at the Santiago Bernabeu to stun the visitors and reopen fresh Champions League wounds.

Meanwhile, since securing the title, PSG have thrown away two-goal leads in consecutive games, allowing Strasbourg and Troyes to share the spoils on both occasions.

Verratti vented his frustrations after the stalemate with Troyes as he acknowledged finding motivation is difficult with the league already in their hands.

"There is a bit of frustration. I think these are matches where you have to have fun, it's about winning and playing well as a team," the Italy international told Amazon Prime Video.

"We are in one of the quietest moments of the season because there is no pressure. We just have to have fun. When you are free in your head, you can enjoy it even more.

"I'm a little frustrated about that. We're coming to the end of the season and we always come out of games feeling p****** off. It's not the thing you dream of at the end of the season, especially when you are already champions.

"I honestly think that we could do much better with the team we have. In difficult times, we could be better. When we are good as a team, we manage to take more pleasure from those matches.

"It was a tough season. Even if we are champions, at the start of the season it was tough, we won a lot of matches late on.

"That means we have great character, because we're still there two minutes from the end to score a goal, but I think we could be better as a team.

"It's true that we changed the team a lot with several rookies. It is not an excuse, but it's the truth. It's difficult to create a big group when you change a lot. You have to take the good things of this season and try to build on it for next season."

Whether Pochettino stays in charge for the next campaign remains to be seen, with reports in France suggesting Zinedine Zidane as a potential target if he is not waiting until after the 2022 World Cup to take DIdier Deschamps' job with France.

Whoever is at the PSG helm, Verratti knows it will take another sizeable effort next year to reset and attempt to banish the Champions League demons.

"We fought hard against Madrid and did 150 minutes very well," he added.

"We won the championship, that's good and I think there's not much missing. Everyone has to give more so at the end we can say: 'OK, we have no regrets, we gave everything, they were stronger'.

"We do have this little regret. We had a dream in the Champions League. If you reach the semi-final then you can find yourself in the final having played two games well. Madrid hit us hard."

Mauricio Pochettino was left to lament costly defensive errors after Paris Saint-Germain squandered a 2-0 lead in their frustrating 2-2 Ligue 1 draw with Troyes on Sunday.

Ligue 1 champions PSG found themselves 2-0 up inside 25 minutes at the Parc des Princes after Marquinhos and Neymar found the net, but Nuno Mendes' dire pass allowed Ike Ugbo to halve the arrears before Florian Tardieu scored a second-half penalty to ensure the points were shared.

The disappointing draw marked the first time PSG had led by two goals in a home Ligue 1 match and failed to win since February 2015 in a 2-2 draw against Caen, after Presnel Kimpembe's clumsy foul allowed Tardieu to beat Keylor Navas with an audacious Panenka. 

The Parisian giants were again booed by their own supporters at the full-time whistle, and have now thrown away a two-goal lead in consecutive games after being pegged back from 3-1 down in a 3-3 draw at Strasbourg last time out.

However, Pochettino, who is facing mounting pressure in the French capital despite PSG's title win, claimed his side were unfortunate not to win and should have been awarded a penalty when Achraf Hakimi appeared to be pushed shortly after the break.

"We started the match well, then we made two errors which cost us two goals," he said after the entertaining draw. "I think we still created more than Troyes.

"We deserved a little more luck tonight. We may have missed this tension of the competition. The objective was to win the championship, it's done. Now you have to respect the competition, and I think we did.

"I think [the lack of a penalty] was not justified. There was a penalty on Hakimi on the other side of the field. Our opponents must surely think the opposite, but that's my opinion."

PSG are now on a three-match winless streak in Ligue 1 – each of those finishing in draws – which is their longest such sequence since April 2019 (also three).

They have also failed to win back-to-back home games for the first time since suffering three consecutive home defeats between February and April last year.

Pochettino's team had numerous chances to win the game, with Lionel Messi hitting the post and the crossbar and Neymar having two goals ruled out by VAR.

Messi has now hit the woodwork 10 times in Ligue 1 this season. Since Opta began collecting such data (2006-07), no player has done so more often in a top-flight season (Bakary Sako also did so 10 times for Saint-Etienne in 2011-12), leading the forward's boss to rue his "incredible" misfortune.

"It's an incredible lack of luck," he said. "We could have won the match on his last action [when he hit the bar in the last minute]. For a player of his quality, this is the only explanation."

With PSG having wrapped up their 10th Ligue title last month, Pochettino has faced criticism from some quarters for not giving more game time to the club's young players.

But the Argentine insisted PSG's academy prospects must earn their right to play, and noted the fierce competition in his star-studded squad.

"It is important to clarify that we built a squad of more than thirty players at the start of the season. We had departures in January, but it is a team where there is not much room for young people," he added.

"They have to earn their playing time. Several have been training with us since day one. It's a first step. What is important is the composition of the squad going forward and that there is room for them to gain minutes. Little by little, young people will find their place."

Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain threw away a two-goal lead for a second successive league game as Troyes battled back to earn a 2-2 draw at the Parc des Princes.

The hosts looked to be in control when Marquinhos and Neymar gave them a comfortable first-half lead, but a series of defensive errors allowed the visitors to fight back in an entertaining affair.

Having surrendered a 3-1 advantage in last week's 3-3 draw with Strasbourg, PSG were on the wrong end of another turnaround when Ike Ugbo and Florian Tardieu scored either side of the break.

Neymar also had two goals disallowed as PSG laboured to another underwhelming result, as the pressure on head coach Mauricio Pochettino continues to mount.

The hosts looked on course for a routine win when Marquinhos turned in Angel Di Maria's excellent cross to open the scoring after five minutes, with Neymar doubling the lead from the spot 20 minutes later after Erik Palmer-Brown clumsily felled Kylian Mbappe.

But Troyes were soon gifted a route back into the game when Ugbo intercepted Nuno Mendes' terrible pass to fire into the bottom-left corner after half an hour.

PSG went close to re-establishing their two-goal advantage when Lionel Messi side-footed against the post, only for Neymar to be ruled offside when smashing home the rebound.

The visitors punished another PSG error when Presnel Kimpembe hauled down Renaud Ripart after the interval, allowing Tardieu to execute an audacious panenka to level the scores, before Neymar saw another goal chalked off after Mbappe's foul in the build-up.

Marquinhos sent a firm header wide and Messi crashed a long-range shot against the bar as the hosts chased a late winner, only for the disciplined visitors to claim a point at a frustrated Parc des Princes.

What does it mean? PSG drop rare home points

While PSG remain unbeaten in 21 Ligue 1 home games (18 wins, three draws), they have now gone two home matches without a win for the first time since doing so between February and April 2021 (three consecutive defeats).

The result will do little to disquiet the discontent around Pochettino's team, with the Argentine under severe pressure despite wrapping up PSG's 10th Ligue 1 title last month.

Neymar continues fine form

Despite PSG flattering to deceive in the second half of the season, Neymar's strong individual performances have proven crucial to their title win.

After converting his first-half penalty, the Brazilian has contributed to goals in each of his last six league games (seven goals and three assists in total).

Tardieu on the spot

In a contest which revolved around two spot-kicks, Tardieu kept his nerve to beat Keylor Navas with a sumptuous lob as the visitors earned a creditable draw.

The 30-year-old has scored four Ligue 1 goals this season, each of them from the spot.

What's next?

PSG travel to Montpellier for the penultimate outing of the Ligue 1 season next Saturday, while Troyes host Lens on the same day.

Mauricio Pochettino declared it difficult to rate Paris Saint-Germain's season after a record-equalling Ligue 1 title followed Champions League disappointment.

PSG held a slender 1-0 advantage heading to Real Madrid in the Champions League last-16 second leg before doubling their advantage in the return fixture, but a Karim Benzema-inspired second-half turnaround dumped Pochettino's side out the competition.

Questions circulated and still remain over the future of Pochettino at PSG, who replaced Thomas Tuchel at the helm in January 2021.

Former Tottenham boss Pochettino may have somewhat eased the pressure by clinching PSG's 10th league title, but the Argentine admitted it is hard to judge the success of the season.

"It's very difficult to rate the season," he told reporters at a pre-match news conference on Saturday before facing Troyes. 

"When I arrived a year and a half ago, the main objective was to win the Champions League. From the moment we haven't achieved it, it's difficult.

"Despite everything, there is this satisfaction of having obtained this 10th title in the history of the club. It's always something to win a national title."

Pochettino did not make the five-man shortlist for the Ligue 1 coach award by the French players' union, UNFP, despite winning the title.

The list was instead made up of Christophe Galtier (Nice), Bruno Genesio (Rennes), Antoine Kombouare (Nantes), Jorge Sampaoli (Marseille) and Julien Stephan (Strasbourg).

However, Pochettino insists he has no problem with the lack of personal recognition.

"I have no opinion to give," he said when asked about the award. "I didn't have any either when I was one of the England nominees alongside Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola. 

"It's a fact, I don't have much to say."

PSG will turn their focus to ending the season in strong fashion, next hosting Troyes on Sunday, though the Ligue 1 champions may be without star forward Lionel Messi.

The Argentina captain returned to individual training after feeling pain in his ribs, but another review will be conducted on Sunday morning to see if the former Barcelona star is fit to feature.

Pochettino, though, has been satisfied with PSG's preparations.

"Yesterday we had a great time together as a squad," he continued. "Everyone was there, we are a real family and it's important to spend time together like that.

"We have prepared well for tomorrow's match. We need to remain professional until the end of the season and we are ready for this penultimate home match.

"It's important to finish our work in the right way. We need to continue to work because we also need to prepare the players for the international matches that are coming soon."

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino insisted his players were not distracted by Lionel Messi rumours ahead of Saturday's hard-fought 2-1 win over Troyes.

PSG commenced their Ligue 1 campaign with the come-from-behind victory after goals from new signing Achraf Hakimi and Mauro Icardi.

The Parisians have been heavily linked with Lionel Messi in recent days after Barcelona confirmed his departure but Pochettino insisted that had no impact on his team's display.

"No, I don't think so, the players and the team have been focused," Pochettino said at the post-game news conference. "They are professionals.

"His name is associated with different clubs, there are plenty of rumours, but the players have remained committed, they will be until the end of the transfer window.

"We will see what happens in the next few days."

Pochettino admitted it was a "difficult" game for PSG, who are aiming to re-claim the Ligue 1 title after missing out to Lille last season.

“It was a very difficult meeting, we did not start well," the Argentine said. "We conceded an early goal, we have to do a lot better. We conceded too many chances for my liking.

"There were good and not-so-good periods in the game but overall I'm happy. It was very important to get the three points and start the season in this way.

"We have to give credit to Troyes who made the game difficult for us. I hoped for better, but the opponent showed energy.

"We are still at the beginning of the season, still in the process of breaking in. We still hope to win 5-0, but we take this victory as it is."

PSG return to action on Saturday against Strasbourg.

Paris Saint-Germain kicked off their Ligue 1 campaign with a 2-1 victory despite suffering an early scare against Troyes.

Oualid El Hajjam's ninth-minute header had the newly promoted hosts on top but their delight was cut short 10 minutes later when Achraf Hakimi smashed in a first goal for his new club.

Mauro Icardi doubled the blow two minutes later with what proved to be the winner, poking past goalkeeper Gauthier Gallon after good work by Kylian Mbappe.

Amid speculation over the possible arrival of Lionel Messi in Paris, Mauricio Pochettino's side started positively on the field as they look to recapture a Ligue 1 crown which they have claimed in seven of the past nine seasons.

Thilo Kehrer's last-ditch intervention made amends for centre-back partner Presnel Kimpembe's early mistake as Troyes threatened, though PSG did not escape so lightly from the resulting corner. El Hajjam greeted Dylan Chambost's inswinging delivery as the centre-back nodded past Keylor Navas.

Ander Herrera sent a rising effort into the side netting but shortly after Hakimi restored parity, powering onto Herrera's pass before blasting a right-footed volley into the roof of the net.

Things rapidly worsened for the hosts when Icardi added a second, the forward prodding home after Mbappe's cutback found his team-mate inside the area.

Mbappe thought he had scored himself when he rounded Gallon and curled towards goal, only to be denied by Jimmy Giraudon's goal-line clearance.

Renaud Ripart induced a smart reflex save from Navas to keep out a drilled strike that seemed destined for the net, while Mama Balde's audacious acrobatics had the PSG goalkeeper scrambling after the break.

Back-to-back opportunities followed for the away side to finish the game off but neither went in, Icardi flicking a header wide and Mbappe bending a shot narrowly over the crossbar.

What does this mean? PSG off on the right track

A good start to make amends for last season's underwhelming campaign was vital for Pochettino and they began in positive fashion despite an initial blip.

While PSG had lost just one of their previous nine opening games in Ligue 1 (W5 D3), they were beaten by Lens to open the 2020-21 season. However, Saturday's win sets the visitors off in the right direction to reclaim their crown.

Hakimi's happy debut

Hakimi's equaliser rapidly removed any nerves for the away side, smashing in to become the first player since Metehan Guclu in 2019 to score on his top-flight debut for PSG.

Since the start of the 2019-20 campaign, only Robin Gosens (34) has more goal involvements for a defender across Europe's top five leagues than Hakimi (31), while his goal here saw him become just the second Moroccan to score in Ligue 1 for the club.

Tough outing for Touzghar

Yoann Touzghar almost profited from Kimpembe's early error to square across Navas' goal, though his performance declined from there on in.

The forward cut an isolated figure up top, winning just 33.3 per cent of his duels as he touched the ball just 20 times – the lowest figure for any player who started the game.

What's next?

PSG host Strasbourg next Saturday - could Messi be part of the squad by then? As for Troyes, they travel to Clermont Foot the day after.

Paris Saint-Germain kicked off their Ligue 1 campaign with a 2-1 victory despite suffering an early scare against Troyes.

Oualid El Hajjam's ninth-minute header had the hosts on top but their delight was cut short 10 minutes later when Achraf Hakimi smashed in a first goal for his new club.

Mauro Icardi doubled the blow two minutes later with what proved to be the winner, poking past goalkeeper Gauthier Gallon after good work by Kylian Mbappe.

Amid speculation over the possible arrival of Lionel Messi in Paris, Mauricio Pochettino's side started positively on the field as they look to recapture a Ligue 1 crown which they have claimed in seven of the past nine seasons.

Thilo Kehrer's last-ditch intervention made amends for centre-back partner Presnel Kimpembe's early mistake as Troyes threatened, though PSG did not escape so lightly from the resulting corner. El Hajjam greeted Dylan Chambost's inswinging delivery as the centre-back nodded past Keylor Navas.

Ander Herrera sent a rising effort into the side netting but shortly after Hakimi restored parity, powering onto Herrera's pass before blasting a right-footed volley into the roof of the net.

Things rapidly worsened for the hosts when Icardi added a second, the forward prodding home after Mbappe's cutback found his team-mate inside the area.

Mbappe thought he had scored himself when he rounded Gallon and curled towards goal, only to be denied by Jimmy Giraudon's goal-line clearance.

Renaud Ripart induced a smart reflex save from Navas to keep out a drilled strike that seemed destined for the net, while Mama Balde's audacious acrobatics had the PSG goalkeeper scrambling after the break.

Back-to-back opportunities followed for the away side to finish the game off but neither went in, Icardi flicking a header wide and Mbappe bending a shot narrowly over the crossbar.

Manchester City's pre-season preparations suffered a double blow on Wednesday as a friendly against Troyes was cancelled due to a change in quarantine rules and another fixture against Preston North End will now take place behind closed doors. 

City's plans of playing in France have been scrapped after the UK government announced that anybody arriving from the country must quarantine for a 10-day period. 

A City statement on the club's official website said: "Both clubs explored all avenues to be able to play the game, but the recent UK government changes to quarantine rules for travellers returning from France, has made the required restrictions too difficult to overcome.

"Pep Guardiola's first-team squad will remain in Manchester and continue their pre-season preparations at the City Football Academy. There are no plans to replace the [Troyes] friendly with another pre-season fixture."

That leaves the Premier League champions with just the sole friendly against Preston before they challenge Leicester City in the Community Shield on August 7.

And no supporters will be present for the game against Preston next Tuesday, with coronavirus-enforced closures to the academy building at City due to end on Monday and the close proximity to the match prompting the club to take a "precautionary approach". 

 

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