With the European football leagues getting underway this week, The Barber's Chair is taking a look at each of the major soccer leagues across the pond to see how each club stacks up this season.
Ligue 1 Power Rankings
With Ligue 1 set to begin on August 10, we will have one of Europe’s top leagues back in action. The French league will receive more attention as the national team recently won the FIFA World Cup, and with it came the attention of casual fans to less established French stars. Let’s rank which teams have the best chance to be crowned champions this season.
Class 1: Title Contenders
PSG (Paris Saint-Germain)
The champions are in a class of their own, winning the league for the fifth time in the last six seasons. Since 2011, the Paris-based squad has been trying to become one of the biggest teams in Europe, and has been relentless in acquiring the best players by paying large transfer fees. Last season’s purchase of Neymar put them in conversation as a destination for top-tier players, and he didn't disappoint, scoring 19 goals in 20 Ligue 1 appearances before his debut season was cut short due to injury.
The World Cup gave further attention to PSG, and it also brought Kylian Mbappe to superstardom. He's only 19 years-old, and his improvement is what can bring PSG closer to competing with Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League. PSG were able to acquire his rights from Monaco and were also to get a hold of Gianluigi Buffon after the legendary goalkeeper departed with Juventus.
This could be a breakout season for the squad with several players like Mbappe and Presnel Kimpembe now a year older. However, several defenders are aging, so look for PSG to monitor the minutes of Dani Alves and Thiago Silva as they prepare for what they hope to be a long season.
Class 2: European qualification spots
Monaco, Lyon and Marseille are strong enough to challenge PSG for the Ligue 1 crown, but in the end they'll most likely be playing for second place.
Monaco has been the most consistent of the bunch, and the only team to win Ligue 1 in the last six years of PSG dominance. They've been focused on getting younger, acquiring players like Aleksandr Golovin, the Russian star of the World Cup who will be making his debut in a top European league. Other transfer signings like Willem Geubbels, who has plenty of potential at 16, is too young to have a major impact this season. However, Monaco still has Radamel Falcao, one of league’s top strikers.
Lyon and Marsielle are two teams that also made few changes from the previous season. Both made signings that were influenced by focusing on the future. The signings of Duje Caleta-Car for Marsielle and Tanguy Ndombele for Lyon are great for their team's long-term futures, but ultimately leave both squads a bit behind Monaco and a significant gap from PSG this year. Lyon will need Memphis Depay to have another great season to hold off Marsielle, and his development will have them at equal level with Monaco. Marsielle missed out on qualification for the UEFA Champions Leauge this past season, finishing a point behind Lyon. Look for that to be the major focus for Rudi Garcia's squad.
Class 3: Mid table
Nice will receive the most attention of the mid-table tier, as former French star Patrick Vieira makes his Ligue 1 managerial debut after managing New York City in MLS. NYCFC made improvements in Vieira's two and a half seasons in the Bronx. In his time there, they were an aggressive and entertaining club to watch as defenders pressed high, similar to Vieira's own style of play.
Nantes is another team that made a managerial change with the Portuguese Miguel Cardoso looking to push the squad to a top-five finish. Theosan-Jordan Siebatcheu is a player to watch for Rennes, as he helped Reims receive promotion to Ligue 1 last season. The American-born Frenchman may push to join the United States national team, as he has not made the debut with the senior French squad.
The rest of the teams in this class will need players who are under the radar to have career seasons to catapult themselves to the top. Dijon is the team who has the best chance to improve as they jumped from 16th to 11th in the past two seasons since returning to Ligue 1. They finalized the purchase of Naim Sliti, and will look for Wesley Said to take the next step.
Class 4: Relegation dangers
Lille was once a top-level team in France, but they've suffered a drop in play in recent years. The focus is now on them to avoid relegatio after a large amount of managerial changes. A top-five finish this upcoming season is unlikely, but they will hope for a top-ten finish for the sanity of their fans.