Another Ligue 1 campaign begins on Friday after a big window for French football, the highlight of which was Paris Saint-Germain retaining Kylian Mbappe.

New arrivals in the league include returns for Lyon duo Alexandre Lacazette and Corentin Tolisso, while high-profile departures have seen Aurelien Tchouameni, Sven Botman and Nayef Aguerd depart.

With PSG once again investing heavily in their squad, adding the likes of Vitinha, Hugo Ekitike and Nordi Mukiele, the capital club are widely expected to storm to another title – but can there be an upset?

The verdict, unsurprisingly, is probably not – as Stats Perform AI predicted the outcome of the coming campaign, estimating the likelihood of teams finishing in each position informed by their expected results in each match.

These are calculated using betting odds and Stats Perform's team rankings – based on historical and recent team performances – and, while the title race is not likely to get going, there are some big battles elsewhere in the division.

PSG PARTY ONCE AGAIN

With one of the most expensive squads ever assembled, including the devastating attack of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, PSG are unsurprisingly expected to romp to another Ligue 1 success.

Having won eight of the last nine titles, Stats Perform AI has given PSG a 76.01 per cent chance of retaining their crown.

Marseille, runners-up last season, are seen as the side most capable of mounting a challenge, though their 7.29 per cent chance is slim. Monaco, title winners in 2016-17, are given a 6.55 per cent chance.

Lyon, once the dominant force in French football, have just a 4.29 per cent chance, while Rennes clock in at 3.44 per cent and Lille, the last side to prevent PSG from winning the title having lifted the trophy in 2020-21, have only a 0.71 per cent chance.

The gulf in class within French football is highlighted by the fact that nine teams, almost half of the division, are seen as having no hope in mounting a title challenge.

 

SCRAMBLE FOR EUROPEAN FOOTBALL

Unlike the other top leagues in European football, France has a limited number of places for qualification for UEFA competitions with just two guaranteed Champions League spots, one qualifying spot, one spot in the Europa League group stage and one in the Europa Conference League play-offs.

With PSG expected to surge to the title and take the first of the two group stage spots in the Champions League, with a 90.93 per cent likelihood, the scrap for the other automatic qualification spot could be fierce.

Marseille are seen as the favourites in that battle with a 29.97 per cent chance, with Monaco following suit with a 29.97 per cent chance.

Elsewhere, Lyon have an 18.7 per cent chance, with Rennes at 15.53 per cent, though they may have to settle for a third-place finish or a spot in the Europa League.

In the battle for fifth, and a play-off spot in the Conference League, it's also expected to be tight – with five clubs, as well as those already mentioned above, given at least a five per cent chance of reaching that spot.

Nice, Lens, Lille, Nantes and Strasbourg are all in with an outside shot of gunning for a spot in European competition, which could set up a thrilling battle.

 

REGULATION CHANGES INCREASE RELEGATION FIGHT

With Ligue 1 reducing to 18 teams from the 2023-24 season, the fight to avoid the drop to the second-tier will be fiercer than ever with the bottom four all being relegated – and there will be no play-offs either.

The situation looks bleak for Ajaccio (57.64 per cent chance of relegation), Clermont (57.57), Troyes (56.72) and Lorient (53.92), all of which are seen as more likely to suffer relegation than they are to avoid the drop.

Auxerre (46.58) and Toulouse (34.02) could also find themselves looking over their shoulders during the course of the season, while PSG, Marseille and Monaco are the three sides given no chance leaving the league through the bottom.

Of the promoted trio, it is Toulouse who are given the best chance of maintaining their top-flight status for another season – with their most likely position being 15th, with a 10.59 per cent chance of securing that spot.

Saint-Etienne will start life in Ligue 2 with a three-point deduction for the crowd trouble that followed their relegation from the French top flight. 

The 5-4 penalty shootout defeat to Auxerre in May was followed by ugly scenes, with supporters clashing with police and security staff after storming the pitch and targeting players. 

The Ligue de Football Professionnel announced on Thursday that the club had been handed a six-point deduction, though three were suspended. 

Saint-Etienne will also play their first four home games of the season at an empty Stade Geoffroy-Guichard after two of the six-match ban they received were suspended. 

The club said in a statement: "Given the nature of the facts, Saint-Etienne has decided not to appeal the decision.

"The club appeals strongly to everyone's responsibility so that these unspeakable acts never happen again at the Geoffroy-Guichard."

Saint-Etienne have "strongly condemned" crowd trouble following the club's relegation from Ligue 1 on Sunday.

Auxerre secured promotion to the top flight with a 5-4 penalty shoot-out victory after the two sides were level at 2-2 on aggregate.

There were ugly scenes after Saint-Etienne's 18-year stay in Ligue 1 was brought to an end, with fans storming onto the pitch.

Flares were thrown at the main stand, while players appeared to be targeted by supporters, who also clashed with police and security staff on the field.

Saint-Etienne vowed to take action following a dark day for the 10-time champions of France.

A club statement said: "Despite an exceptional and reinforced deployment of nearly 500 agents, many supporters invaded the pitch at the final whistle of the match against Auxerre.

"Some were guilty of several degradations and acts of violence towards players, the security agents, police and the fans in the Pierre-Faurand stand

"ASSE strongly condemns these acts, gives its full support to those affected and will initiate the necessary legal proceedings."

Saint-Etienne fans stormed the pitch in troubling scenes after a penalty shoot-out defeat to Auxerre confirmed their relegation from Ligue 1 on Sunday.

The Ligue 1-Ligue 2 play-off at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard ended 1-1 on the night and 2-2 on aggregate, with Hamza Sakhi's 51st-minute strike for Auxerre cancelled out by Mahdi Camara and extra time failing to produce a winner.

Ryad Boudebouz missed the first spot-kick of the shoot-out and that proved costly as Auxerre went on to triumph 5-4 and secure their spot back in the top flight.

The winning penalty was taken by Auxerre captain Birama Toure and preceded home supporters storming the pitch in frightening scenes, with flares and smoke bombs launched in the direction of the turf, with reports some were also thrown towards the directors' boxes.

Some fans also appeared to target Saint-Etienne players on a regrettable night for the joint-most successful club in Ligue 1 history, who have won the title 10 times – the same amount as Paris Saint-Germain.

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