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PSG title favourites for already coronavirus-threatened season

Reuters/Paris
Filed on August 20, 2020 | Last updated on August 20, 2020 at 01.47 pm
PSG are expected to retain Neymar and Kylian Mbappe as they aim for an eighth title in nine years

(AFP)

Olympique de Marseille are scheduled to play the curtain-raiser against St Etienne

With Champions League finalists Paris St Germain way above the cut, the question in France is not who will win the Ligue 1 title, but how the season will be played amid the Covid-19 crisis.

Olympique de Marseille were scheduled to play the curtain-raiser against St Etienne on Friday but four confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus at the Provence club meant that the French League postponed the match.

Girondins de Bordeaux will host Nantes instead as the LFP started to reshuffle the calendar before the first kickoff of the season. The 2019-20 season was cut short with 11 games left amid the pandemic.

"I'm pessimistic. I don't see this league happening in normal conditions. We're not going to have so many dates for postponed games and soon we're going to hit a wall," St Etienne coach Claude Puel said.

PSG are expected to retain Neymar and Kylian Mbappe as they aim for an eighth title in nine years. Even if coach Thomas Tuchel has some remodelling to do with captain Thiago Silva leaving, it will take some special achievement to dethrone the capital side.

Olympique Lyonnais, however, are hoping to mount a challenge after being deprived of any European competition when they finished the previous season in seventh place.

Sports director Juninho said the club would "lose" talented midfielder Houssem Aouar and striker Moussa Dembele, but OL have plenty of home-grown talent, notably midfielder Rayan Cherki, who could step up this term.

Coach Rudi Garcia, however, conceded the staff would have "some psychological work to do" to quickly focus on domestic duties and avoid a bad start after being eliminated in the Champions League semi-finals by Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

Monaco, the only club to break PSG's recent domination, hope they can find some stability after former Bayern coach Nico Kovac was appointed to lead the 2017 champions.

Marseille, runners-up last season, have found stability under Portuguese coach Andre Villas-Boas - who wanted to leave but said his players convinced him to stay.
"It was very hard for me to go back on my word after I had exposed myself publicly. The players, and only the players, were the key in making me change my mind," he said.

OM, who are under the watch of Uefa after breaking financial fair play regulations, will hope to retain most of their top players after France winger Dimitri Payet extended his contract and agreed to a pay cut.


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