As Ligue 1 returns, PSG looking farther in front of rivals than ever

After Lyon battled with Paris Saint-Germain last season and Monaco kept things tight for a time the year before, defections and injury leave the rivals looking farther afield than ever from the three-years running champions.
Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani celebrates his goal in the Trophee de Champions match against Lyon on Saturday. Franck Fife/  AFP / August 1, 2015
Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani celebrates his goal in the Trophee de Champions match against Lyon on Saturday. Franck Fife/ AFP / August 1, 2015

There are ominous signs that Paris Saint-Germain will begin the Ligue 1 season at full throttle, which is worrying for their rivals hoping to prevent a fourth consecutive title for the mega-rich capital club.

In the last three seasons PSG have struggled to impose their superiority early in the season, being forced to play catch-up.

The Qatar-funded club, who are poised to add Argentina forward Angel Di Maria to their already enviable attacking options, have impressed in the build-up to the new season, beating the likes of Fiorentina and Manchester United in the International Champions Cup.

They then cruised to a 2-0 defeat of Lyon in the Trophee des Champions on Saturday.

“We stuck together and played quite high up the pitch, which is great because I want us to impose our game on our opponents,” coach Laurent Blanc said after Saturday’s game.

In the last three seasons PSG started their campaign with a draw, each time against modest opposition, but despite what Blanc called a “chaotic” preparation, they look formidable.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who had a below-par season even if PSG achieved an unprecedented clean sweep of domestic silverware (Ligue 1, Cuope de France and Coupe de la Ligue titles), looks in sharp form.

The Sweden striker has played in a deeper role at times, allowing Edinson Cavani, who scored 11 goals in his last eight games with PSG, to enjoy more space up front.

The Uruguay forward notably scored the team’s second goal against Lyon on Saturday.

PSG will start the defence of their title at Lille on Friday (10.30pm UAE) while Lyon, runners-up last year, will host Lorient on Sunday (11pm).

Lyon, whose coach Hubert Fournier blended a remarkable squad of youngsters last season, will benefit from more experience this time but will be without France international Clement Grenier for the start of the season after the attacking midfielder tore a ligament in his leg last week.

Marseille were contenders for a long time last season but have lost strikers Andre-Pierre Gignac to Mexican club Tigres and Andre Ayew to Swansea City and could struggle to last the pace this time.

They did sign injury-ravaged holding midfielder Abou Diaby from Arsenal, who will have something to prove after seeing his career stall.

“I have not played for two years and it takes time,” he said. “I want to do step by step. I continue to work, but the national team is the back of my head.”

Monaco will be hoping to limit the damage after losing Geoffrey Kondogbia to Inter Milan, Yannick Ferreira Carrasco to Atletico Madrid and Dimitar Berbatov.

They will rely on Stephan El Shaarawy, on loan from AC Milan, who is set to be the main new attraction on an otherwise calm transfer period so far.

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Published: August 3, 2015 04:00 AM

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