Ligue 1 Predictions for 2023/24

Opta makes the reigning French Ligue 1 champions, Paris Saint-Germain, the overwhelming favourites to retain their title for another year. It shouldn’t be a surprise, with PSG having won Ligue 1 nine times out of the last 11 seasons, and finishing runners-up in the other two. There may be a not-so-subtle difference this season, though, which we’ll touch on more later.

So what is Opta, and what makes its opinion so important?

Opta Sports is a sports analytics company based in the UK. Its customers range from broadcasters and betting websites to football federations and leagues themselves. It provides data on more than 30 sports across 70 different countries and is widely regarded as the authority in world sports analysis.

Opta has done enough data analysis in sports since 1996 for us to take its predictions seriously. 

Remember, we mentioned a potential difference in Ligue 1 this season, with Opta’s data backing this up. Over previous seasons, PSG has dominated the 10,000+ pre-season Opta supercomputer simulations. The club was almost an 80% title favourite in 2021/22 and over a 75% favourite last season. This season, the simulations only make the Paris megaclub a 55.5% favourite to keep its crown.

Why the large drop in percentage?

There are several contributing factors. Paris Saint-Germain is a club in transition. Christophe Galtier, successor to Mauricio Pochettino who led the club to the Ligue 1 title by 15 points in 2021/22, only lasted a season in charge. Sure, he succeeded in taking PSG to the Ligue 1 title last season, but only by a single point from Lens.

After Galtier departed by mutual consent in early July, the PSG hierarchy moved quickly to replace him with Luis Enrique. Enrique comes with some pedigree as a double La Liga winner and UEFA Champions League winner with the Spanish giants, Barcelona. He also achieved moderate success as the Spanish national team manager thereafter. 

Luis Enrique’s biggest immediate challenge with PSG is to settle the squad. Last season’s star-studded playing staff has been left decimated by some high-profile departures. And there’s also more than a little restlessness clear from one that remains. 

First to go were the experienced Sergio Ramos and star forward, Lionel Messi. Alone, Messi’s loss was impactful, but even more departures were to come. Leandro Paredes left for Roma. Junior Dina Ebimbe joined Stuttgart and Mauro Icardi departed for Turkey. RB Leipzig snapped up El Chadaille Bitshiabu, and Abdou Diallo joined the European exodus to Saudi Arabia. 

Then, very recently, world superstar Neymar also left for Saudi in a €90 million deal. Neymar’s transfer and Lionel Messi’s departure means that PSG has lost two of the club’s much-vaunted front three from last season. Only Kylian Mbappe remains.

But surely keeping Mbappe is good enough? After all, Marco Asensio, Milan Skriniar, Kang-in Lee, Ousmane Dembélé, and Manuel Ugarte have joined the fold. 

Is it, though? Mbappe himself was last month the subject of a world record Saudi bid and has spent a few dissatisfied weeks outside of the PSG first-team squad. He now seems to have reached a temporary agreement with his employers, but his contract is expiring. He’s currently refusing a move away or to sign a new deal.

It’s public knowledge that the player is holding out for a free transfer to Real Madrid at the end of the season. Is Kylian Mbappe’s stance going to make Luis Enrique’s job more difficult? Only time will tell.

Besides PSG, what do the odds say about the other Ligue 1 contenders?

Despite its team transition and possible upheaval, PSG is a strong favourite among UKGC-regulated betting sites. Bookmakers are offering odds on the champions of around the 1/4 mark for the title. Among the other teams, most money is coming for Olympique de Marseilles, priced at 8/1 among bookies on average.

OM finished in third place last season, a distant 12 points off the lead. Some astute signings in the experienced Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Chelsea, and the young Iliman Ndiaye should boost Marseille’s goal potential. The talented Ismaïla Sarr is another fine attacking addition. 

With the Africans Amine Harit and Geoffrey Kondogbia bolstering the midfield, OM is looking a good bet for a decent season.

Next in line with the bookies is AS Monaco FC. Backing the Principality side now means finding odds of around 16/1 with most sportsbooks. After a lowly sixth-place finish last term, Monaco has improved its defensive frailties. The club has signed two goalkeepers, a pair of central defenders, and a highly regarded defensive midfielder to date.  

Swiss goalkeeper Philipp Köhn, centre-back Mohammed Salisu, and Denis Zakaria, a €20 million defensive midfield signing from Juventus, look to be Monaco’s standout acquisitions. Considering this productive activity, it may be worth watching the club’s early season form to make use of the current odds on offer.

According to bookmakers, some other Ligue 1 outfits have outside title chances. These include LOSC Lille (25/1), Stade Rennais FC (33/1), and last season’s surprise runners-up, RC Lens. It may surprise bettors that Lens isn’t more strongly backed than the 50/1 odds on offer. 

Lens’s potential signing of Arsenal’s young American striker Folarin Balogun could see more money coming in at the bookies. Balogun scored 21 goals while on loan at Reims last season and now knows Ligue 1 well. Interestingly, Opta Sports makes RC Lens the 21.6% second-favourites for the Ligue 1 title.  It may be worth closely watching future developments.

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