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In Ligue 1 football, clubs are preparing for an atypical season



For ten years, the seasons have been spinning and look alike in the French championship. Take a locomotive fueled by Qatari petrodollars – Paris Saint-Germain – which logically puts its name on the competition’s prize list, if we except the surprises in Monaco (2017) and Lille (2021). Add to this its share of contenders for runners-up – most often Lyon, Marseille or Monaco –, an unbreakable soft belly and a last car prepared to fight for its maintenance.

The new 2022-2023 fiscal year, which opens on Friday August 5 with the meeting between Lyon and Ajaccio (9 p.m.), could however upset the established order. If PSG will aim for an 11th crown, the Parisians, like the rest of the elite, will have to deal with an unprecedented format where no longer two, or even three, but four teams will be relegated to the lower level. Either the condition of the passage, from the following season, from 20 to 18 clubs in the championship while maintaining two promotions from Ligue 2.

Already adopted in the past – from the post-war period until 1970, then from 1997 to 2002 – this restriction was formalized in December 2021 for a dual purpose. Make the championship more attractive to sell it better when negotiating the next television rights. And allow the French teams to gain in competitiveness to hope to appear better on the European scene. By going from 38 to 34 games played over a season, this will free up four weeks for the big clubs playing the Champions League”retains Patrick Guillou, specialist for BeIN Sports in the German championship, where the 18-club formula has been practiced for a long time.

“Be 100% ready from the first meeting so as not to be left behind”

This new configuration has mainly affected the preparation of teams accustomed to the bottom of the table. With four runs, all teams will try to score as many points as possible as quickly as possible. You will have to be 100% ready from the first meeting so as not toe let go”, explained at a press conference the coach of Reims, Oscar Garcia. “I think that during the season the most disturbed teams will be those in the middle of the table, which could be affected by these four ejection seats”, plans for his part Bruno Irles, the coach of Troyes, expected, with Brest, Clermont or Lorient, among the clubs fighting for their maintenance. In this context, some formations have anticipated their recruitment, as in Angers where seven reinforcements have already joined the workforce.

Should we therefore fear a more padlocked season, where small teams will be tempted to be particularly cautious? “I don’t think the quality of the game is affected. The goal is to be efficient, and the best way to do that is to stay true to what you know how to do,” nuance Bruno Irles, citing the example of the promoted Auxerre and Toulouse, “mounted in Ligue 1 thanks to an attacking profile that they themselves have an interest in not denying”.

Winter break postponed due to Mondial

In this year of the World Cup in Qatar (from November 21 to December 18), usually disputed at the beginning of summer and exceptionally moved to prevent the sweltering heat, the calendar is also turned upside down. Teams qualified for a European Cup will have to negotiate a denser first part of the season, like in the Champions League, where there will be only one week between group stage matches. “It changes the planning. From August until November, there will be a lot of matches, so it will be important to have different player profiles because we will be playing every three days.” estimated the president of Marseille, Pablo Longoria.

The winter break, extended to 45 days, will therefore be brought forward to allow the championship to resume its rights during the end of year celebrations. Most teams will grant two weeks off to players who will not be affected by the event, before embarking on a new phase of fitness. A cut that could lead to “big surprises in the results, judged Nicolas Dyon, former physical trainer from Nice and Rennes, in an interview with West France in June. The teams which do not have internationals, if they work well, will be able to pull out of the game”.

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