Welcome to our third and final part of our Ligue 1 2018-19 preview!
Part 1, covering Amiens to Lyon, can be found here.
Part 2, covering Marseille to PSG, can be found here.
Reims returned to Ligue 1 in style as they cruised to promotion last season. Their celebrations were dealt a blow, though, when Ligue 2 player of the season Diego Rigonato left the club in a move to the UAE. His goals and assists will be a miss for David Guion’s side, as will Jordan Siebatcheu, who moved to Rennes. Siebatcheu top scored for Reims last season, finding the net 17 times. They have, however, managed to retain Pablo Chavarria, who also hit double figures, and the pressure will be on him to replicate that form this season. Veteran midfielder Alaixys Romao has also joined to add some Ligue 1 experience to the midfield. Reims only conceded 24 goals on their way to the Ligue 2 title, and that resilience will be required again if they are to stay up. Reims will find their return tough going, but should just have enough to avoid the drop. An extra goalscorer would make that all the easier.
Predicted finish: 13th
Under Sabri Lamouchi, Rennes rescued their season after a slow start; after a terrific fifth-place finish, the club will enjoy European football this season. With the excellent Joris Gnagnon their only significant departure this summer, arrivals have been positive. Clement Grenier looked back to his best with Guingamp, so his signing will add creativity to the team, especially after the club failed to convert Wahbi Khazri’s loan spell into a permanent move. Jordan Siebatcheu will hopefully prove to be the striker Rennes have needed for a few seasons now. Gnagnon’s replacement is Damien Da Silva from Caen, and the experienced defender could prove to be a very shrewd signing. Combine the signings with the existing quality they have in Tomas Koubek, Jeremy Gelin, Benjamin Bourigeaud, and Ismaila Sarr, and Rennes seem to be a team heading in the right direction. With former PSG President Olivier Letang steering from the top, another successful season should be in their grasp.
Predicted finish: 5th
In coach Jean-Louis Gasset, Saint-Etienne look to have found someone to put them on the right track after months of rocky times following Christophe Galtier’s departure last summer. It was after Gasset’s appointment as new head coach that the club rediscovered its best form; in the second half of the season, few could match them. The club narrowly missed out on a European spot, but that could prove to be something of a blessing as they can have a full season to focus on the league. January signings Mathieu Debuchy and Yann M’Vila proved to be inspirational as both looked back to their best, and permanent deals soon followed for the pair. Joining them this summer is Wahbi Khazri, who was instrumental in Rennes’ fifth place finish, and Timothee Kolodziejczak, who will bring some energy to a solid but ageing defence. The club are still hopeful of signing Remy Cabella, who enjoyed a strong loan spell, and Loïs Diony has retuned from time in England. If Gasset can work his magic on him as well, then the club should go on to have a very solid season.
Predicted finish: 6th
Whilst they only avoided relegation on the final day of last season, Strasbourg fans won’t have cared. Their first season back in the top flight had already provided plenty of memorable moments, including hugely impressive wins over PSG and Lyon, the latter of which included a wonderful injury time winner in the penultimate game of the season. It is therefore not hugely surprising that there have been many movements in the transfer market. Martin Terrier returned to Lyon following his loan spell, and Monaco signed youngster Jean-Eudes Aholou. Top scorer Stephane Bahoken also departed – however, Strasbourg are a team where the goals are spread around. Dimitri Lienard, scorer of that winner against Lyon, has remained, and should again have a vital role to play. The Aholou money has been reinvested in bolstering the defence, but if Strasbourg do want to avoid another round of last day nerves, maybe they need to also add a fresh face or two in attack.
Predicted finish: 15th
It took victory in the Ligue 1 relegation/Ligue 2 promotion play-off for Toulouse to confirm their Ligue 1 status last season, but there was a real feeling that it was simply postponing the inevitable. Their summer transfers have hardly done much to improve spirits. Captain Issa Diop left in a big money move to West Ham, whilst their other bright hope, Alban Lafont, joined Fiorentina. Baptiste Reynet is a solid signing in place of Lafont, but Diop is yet to be replaced, and with rumours that fellow defender Christopher Jullien is also looking to leave, alarm bells should be ringing. Whilst there have been a lack of defensive recruits, new signings have come in attack – however, the likes of Firmin Mubele and Aaron Leya Iseka hardly scream goals, something Toulouse severely lack. John Bostock, Ligue 2 player of the season two years ago, and Matthieu Dossevi, third in last seasons assists table, at least look like promising signings, but at the moment, there is a real lack of quality in too many areas to see them escape the drop once more.
Predicted finish: 19th