Aurier arrival and landing Luiz make PSG firm favourites in France
PSG lost just three games en route to picking up another Ligue 1 crown last term, and Coral make the French capital club strong odds-on 1/7 favourites for a third straight top-flight title.
Laurent Blanc carried on Carlo Ancelotti’s excellent work, but is not content to rest on his laurels as the Parisians boss has brought in two players to strengthen his side, despite the strictures of Financial Fair Play sanctions.
A host of Premier League clubs were tracking highly-rated Ivory Coast right back Serge Aurier, but he will have the opportunity to audition his talents at the highest level by playing Champions League football on loan from Toulouse. This was a major coup for PSG, though does raise doubts about the future of Dutchman Gregory van der Wiel.
If Aurier can regularly replicate his showing in his country’s World Cup opener, where he made two assists to help the Ivory Coast come from behind against Japan, then Blanc has made a brilliant signing. David Luiz, for a cool €50m, is the other Parc des Princes arrival.
Debate continues to rage about what the former Chelsea man’s best position is. In big games he can be a liability at centre back, see that 7-1 German demolition of Brazil for a demonstration of this. Perhaps Blanc will follow in Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez’s footsteps by playing Luiz in midfield, especially as the legs of Thiago Motta are ageing.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic just simply needs to keep scoring goals, though Blanc would also be wise to make a decision about Edinson Cavani, who has made his position clear about operating out wide. These two attackers have egos, but the former has done far better in backing it up by performing on the pitch in Paris.
Mega-rich Monaco are touted to once again be PSG’s closest challengers. Bankrolled by Russian billions, they are 13/2 chances to take the title from the capital to the principality. Despite the wealth of benefactor Dmitry Rybolovlev, it’s been a summer of change there.
World Cup Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez simply could not be kept from clutches of Real Madrid, making a big-money dream move that could eventually see Monaco end up more than £70m better off. Every player, even at a club owned by an oligarch, has his price, then.
Up-and-coming Portuguese coach Leonardo Jardim, meanwhile, has succeeded former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri, and had a major squad clear-out. More than 20 players have been released, loaned out or moved on, including former Barcelona defender Eric Abidal.
Monaco are yet to bring anyone in. Their resources and Champions League football are attractive qualities that could surely lure a marquee signing to offset Rodriguez’s exit. They still have fellow Colombian Radamel Falcao, but how will he perform upon his return from a serious knee injury? Dimitar Berbatov and Lacina Traore are there as backup.
Can another Ligue 1 outfit run the rich teams close? From a chasing pack that also contains recent winners Lille (22/1) and Lyon (33/1), Marseille are the most interesting proposition. The Mediterranean coast club have become the latest to benefit from the unorthodox, but effective, tactics of Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa.
At 25/1 for the title, El Loco has an eye for the main chance. Diminutive playmaker Mathieu Valbuena, one of France’s star performers at the World Cup, seems destined to leave, but this is the opening for young Florian Thauvin to step up.
With the likes of him, the Ayew brothers (Andre and Jordan), Dimitri Payet, Andre-Pierre Gignac and new signing Michy Batshuayi, Bielsa has strong competition for places in the front four of his patented 3-3-3-1 formation.
PSG are worthy favourites, though, and will want to lay down a dynasty to rival, equal or better Lyon’s record run of seven straight titles between 2002 and 2008.