Welcome to Part 2 of our Ligue 1 preview for 2018-19. We’ll look at all the teams from M to P here, but if you need to catch up with Part 1, click here.
Despite failing to secure Champions League football, there is a feeling that good times are starting to return to Marseille. A fourth-place finish and a run to the Europa League final demonstrated that it won’t take much for Rudi Garcia’s side to start challenging for trophies once again. Adding a centre back was paramount, and Garcia has seen to that by bringing in Croatian defender Duje Ćaleta-Car. Many will feel an extra body in midfield and a more reliable striker should also be on the shopping list, but if Dimitri Payet and Florian Thauvin can continue their excellent form – the latter just had his best season to date – then Marseille may persist with Kostas Mitroglou.
Their main rivals, Monaco and Lyon, have arguably either spent or improved. Garcia may be forced to bring in more new faces if Marseille are to keep up.
Predicted finish: 4th
After a second-place finish, Leonardo Jardim was faced with another summer of upheaval as Monaco once again invoked their ongoing plan of selling big, and hiring promising and cheap. Out went Fabinho, Thomas Lemar, Terence Kongolo, and Adama Diakhaby all for significant profit, plus the permanent departure of Kylian Mbappe to PSG. In turn, Monaco have brought in promising youngsters from around Europe, including Russian starlet Aleksandr Golovin, Willem Geubbels, Samuel Grandsir, Sofiane Diop, and Ronael Pierre-Gabriel. Rumours circulate regarding the futures of Radamel Falcao and Djibril Sidibe, but the quality of the new recruits should ensure another smooth transition. Depth in defence could be their main downfall, with a lack of quality options beyond first choice centre-back pairing Kamil Glik and Jemerson.
With Lyon perhaps slightly stronger on a man-for-man basis, Jardim could face a tougher task in retaining the runners-up spot.
Predicted finish: 3rd
Another team to rely heavily on an excellent defence last season, Montpellier were only bettered by PSG in terms of fewest goals conceded. Whilst the likes of Benjamin Lecomte, Pedro Mendes, and the evergreen Vitorino Hilton have remained, key youngster Nordi Mukiele has departed to Germany, with left-back Jerome Roussillon looking likely to follow. It’s key that Montpellier don’t lose that resoluteness this season, especially as action at the other end of the pitch may still prove to be an issue. Whilst the arrival of Andy Delort looks to be an attempt to solve that problem, the striker has looked off his best for a couple of seasons now.
Montpellier have the quality to mean relegation won’t be a concern, but neither will they be troubling the European places.
Predicted finish: 12th
After the Claudio Ranieri experiment ended with a comfortable mid-table finish via an effective but defensive brand of football, President Waldemar Kita saw fit to bring in Miguel Cardoso, who will be tasked with getting the team playing a more attractive style. Whilst captain Leo Dubois has moved on, Fabio has been brought in as his replacement to join his brother Rafael – at Lyon – in Ligue 1. Adrien Thomasson was a rare creative spark in the Nantes midfield, and his departure could hurt much more, with the largely untested Brazilian Lucas Evangelista drafted in to fill that void. To ease the pressure on striker Emiliano Sala, Cardoso looks close to completing moves for Majeed Waris, who will add another direct goal threat, and Gabriel Boschilia, who would bring some much-needed creativity.
If those moves do come off, then Nantes fans could finally be rewarded for their patience with performances which are far easier on the eye.
Predicted finish: 10th
It’s been a summer of change at Nice this summer, both on the pitch and in the dugout. Lucien Favre departed after two years with the club, taking over at Borussia Dortmund, so Patrick Vieira was brought in from New York City FC for his first senior coaching role in Europe. On the field, Jean-Michel Seri and Alassane Plea left in big money moves, with Mario Balotelli still seeming odds on to leave as well. Plea and Balotelli contributed 34 of the team’s 53 goals – losing both would be a hammer blow. Seri was also an instrumental player; however, his departure has been softened with the signing of Danilo from Braga. In Wylan Cyprien and Allan Saint-Maximin, the team boast pace, skill, and creativity, but unless a goalscorer is brought in, Vieira’s first season this side of the Atlantic could be a tough one.
Predicted finish: 8th
It’s a welcome return to the top flight for Nimes after they finished runners-up in Ligue 2 last season. They entertained so many with an all out attacking brand of football that delivered goals aplenty, finding the net a league-high 75 times. Crucial to that were the pairing of Rachid Alioui (17 goals) and Umut Bozok (24 goals), and the fact they have both been retained should give Nimes some comfort. Whilst goals might not be a problem this season, the worry is that there is perhaps a lack of quality at the back. They have brought in the hugely experienced Mustapha Diallo to add some bite in midfield, and whilst Paul Bernardoni excelled on loan with Clermont last season, there are question marks over his top-flight credentials.
It’ll be a tough season ahead for les Crocodiles, and despite their attacking merits, it could be one with an unfortunate ending.
Predicted finish: 20th
Under new coach Thomas Tuchel, other new faces have been surprisingly limited so far, with Gianluigi Buffon the only major arrival. Financial Fair Play has had a part to play for that – however, significant sales have been made with the departures of Javier Pastore, Yuri Berchiche, and Odsonne Edouard. A new centre-back is planned, with Jerome Boateng the current favourite, and a defensive midfielder also seems to be required. All eyes though will, of course, be on Neymar, who has faced a growing number of critics over the summer, and World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe. The dynamic between the two will be interesting to watch this season; the Brazilian joined to claim the spotlight, but over the summer, all the focus and talk has been on Mbappe’s meteoric rise and stellar performances in Russia. Other than a change in formation to three at the back, little has changed; not that it needed to much, but with Champions League success the main goal once again, Tuchel would be wise to take heed of last season’s deficiencies.
Predicted finish: 1st
Our preview concludes tomorrow with Part 3.