By Tim Stannard
Despite PSG being seen as an unstoppable force in French football, that perception is not reflected in Ligue 1 reality. Both Monaco and Lille have overthrown PSG's dominance in the last five seasons in France and are stepping up again this year, along with two more challengers.
1) The best PSG team in history
While Lille fully deserved their admirable Ligue 1 title win last season, Kylian Mbappe had a point, despite the unnecessary snark, that PSG's consistent failures were key in the title race. Despite having by far the best roster in the league, it was big-time chokes in big-time games which punished PSG.
PSG missed out on the title by just the single point to Lille. Costly losses were scattered throughout the campaign against Lille, Monaco (twice), Lyon and Marseille. Just one of these results going in the other direction would have made all the difference. This preponderance for choking sees the club recruiting some serial winners in an astute summer campaign.
The major cash that has been splashed is on 22-year-old Moroccan fullback, Achraf Hakimi, who won the Serie A title for Inter Milan last season and is already one of the best defenders in the world.
Add Neymar and Kylian Mbappe into the mix and this is the best PSG squad ever assembled. The pressure is on Mauricio Pochettino to do something with it.
2) Marseille back to their best
Marseille have found the perfect fit in Argentinean coach, Jorge Sampaoli. The manager who could start a fist-fight with himself against the club that can do the same. Much of the last season for Marseille was a miserable experience. Frustrated supporters that could not attend the Velodrome tried storming the ramparts of the training ground and a dejected Andres Villas-Boas quit as coach.
Frowns turned around when Sampaoli joined to lift Marseille into fifth, but still 23 points behind Lille. The club is hoping that a return of some of the most furious fans in football in the stands and heavy recruitment in the summer transfer market will see Marseille challenging for the title once again.
American winger Konrad de la Fuente has joined from Barcelona while $27.5 million has been dropped on midfielder, Gerson, from Flamengo. The promising pair of Matteo Guendouzi and William Saliba join on loan from Arsenal to help add depth to a squad that has seen $45 million in investment and will need to deliver to avoid another Bastille-style uprising from the fans.
3) A Lille club with big ambitions
Lille's Trophee des Champions win showed that there is still a lot of fight left in Les Dogues, despite a summer that has seen key pieces of the title win being dismantled by the cash-strapped club.
Midfielder, Boubakary Soumare, was sold to Leicester City while goalkeeper, Mike Maignan, moved to Milan to bring $36 million into the club's empty coffers. These are tough holes to fill, but Lille have been boosted by captain and defender, Jose Fonte, signing a new deal and the striking pair of Burak Yilmaz and Jonathan David are still leading the line, having scored 29 league goals between them last season.
The biggest blow was the coach, Christophe Galtier, walking out of his contract just days after the Ligue 1 title win to join Nice - a most acrimonious departure.
Lille may not have a squad as strong as their rivals, but that didn't matter last season. The club has already won silverware with the Trophee des Champions and has a taste for more.
4) Monaco a go-go
Monaco had been a bit of a mess since winning Ligue 1 in in 2017. Coaches came and went - the same one sometimes - and a loss of direction in the transfer market saw the Monte Carlo side on a losing streak.
That was until the appointment of former Bayern Munich boss, Niko Kovac, who lead the team back into third place last season powered by the goals of the brilliant striking double of Kevin Volland and Wissam Ben Yedder, who scored 36 Ligue 1 strikes.
Monaco were in the title hunt until the very last round last season. There's every chance that the club will be there at the business end again.
Christophe Galtier left Lille for a reason. The ambitious manager thinks he is joining a project with the possibility of winning back-to-back league titles for the French coach. The club is owned by Ineos, a group that makes chemicals but also winning sports franchises.
"Wherever Ineos go, they win. They are on the fastest car in Formula 1 (Mercedes). They are on the fastest boats and bikes in the world," said Galtier on his arrival on the Mediterranean. The biggest waves in the transfer market have been the $15.4 million signing of Dutch winger, Calvin Stengs along with striker Justin Kluivert on loan.
The league title looks an outside bet, but with Christophe Galtier at the helm, it's a side not to be underestimated.