Splurging PSG threaten to dominate Ligue 1
Few doubt that Paris St Germain's extravagant spending will land them the Ligue 1 title this season, possibly with several games to spare, and even titleholders Montpellier appear to have thrown in the towel.
Qatari-owned PSG have splurged almost a 100 million euros on spectacular signings such as Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Brazil's Thiago Silva, both from AC Milan, and many expect a one-horse race for the French title.
PSG had expected to dominate the league last season but they were stunned by Montpellier, who claimed their maiden league title.
This time, not even the defending champions believe they will be able to offer a credible challenge to Carlo Ancelotti's team.
"Even if we could upset them on the pitch, we will have to fight for the second place. They are out of reach," said Montpellier full-back Henri Bedimo.
"We have to end in the top three. Second will be perfect," added the club's president Louis Nicollin.
Montpellier have stuck by their prudent transfer policy, spending barely 12 million euros to strengthen the squad while Olivier Giroud, last season's Ligue 1 joint topscorer with 21 goals, has departed for Arsenal.
They have also landed defender Daniel Congre from Toulouse to give them a stronger physical presence for their Champions League campaign.
Lille, the 2010/11 champions and third last season, will also try to stay in the top three despite the departure of Belgian forward Eden Hazard, twice winner of the Ligue 1 Player of the Season award, who has joined Chelsea.
"It's impossible to replace Eden, but we were prepared. When major players leave, we know how to handle it," coach Rudi Garcia told Reuters. "We choose players who match up our philosophy."
PSG hope their signings can help them join the European elite.
"Who was talking about the Ligue 1 before PSG made this dream come true?" Ibrahimovic said when he held his first press conference in front of an unusually packed auditorium at Parc des Princes.
The 30-year-old Sweden striker, who said he was joining a "dream team", will play alongisde his former AC Milan team-mate Thiago Silva, bought for a reported fee of 42 million euros.
"It was a bit strange to see them coming. Until now, we were more used to watch them play on TV," full-back Christophe Jallet told Reuters. "It is now clear that we've moved the next level, the European level."
In contrast to PSG's spending spree, former power Lyon, who will not feature in the Champions League for the first time since 2000 after last season's fourth-place finish, were quiet on the transfer market.
Marseille's new coach Elie Baup, the replacement for Didier Deschamps after he was given the France national team job, has refused to set any goals for his squad after last season's 10th place, their worst finish in more than a decade.