This weekend will see the start of the French Ligue 1 and German Bundesliga with Girondins Bordeaux and Vfl Wolfsburg under much pressure to replicate or improve the form that saw the duo win its respective league titles.
First in France and Bordeaux will have mainly Olympique Lyon; winner of the seven previous league seasons, and Olympique Marseille to contend with this season as well as the likes of Paris St. Germain and OSC Lille.
Bordeaux manager Laurent Blanc has kept the core of his team for the season with the main player being Youann Gourcuff along with fellow midfielder Youann Gouffran and strikers Wendell and Fernando Cavenaghi while Marouane Chamakh could remain with the club till January owing to the protracted transfer saga with him, Bordeaux and Arsenal.
While Blanc can be confident of going for the Ligue 1 title having finished runner-up two seasons ago but holding off Lyon this season may be much harder than it was last season.
Lyon may have lost top scorer Karim Benzema to Real Madrid but the money from that transfer has been used to orchestrate the arrival of Lisandro Lopez from FC Porto, Spanish striker David Guiza and Bafetimbi Gomis from local rivals St. Etienne.
The third main challenger for the French title is Olympique Marseille that have former French national team captain Didier Deschamps at the helm following the resignation of Eric Gerets after a good season.
Marseille have retained top striker Mamadou Niang, talented midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa and Nigerian left back Taye Taiwo; the trio named as the key players ahead of the season by Deschamps. The Veldrome club have also strenghtened with the arrival of defender Lucho Lopez from title rivals Bordeaux but the key to Marseille’s title challenge would be thoroughly improving on its home record and keeping the away record of last season.
PSG, Toulouse and OSC Lille have kept the core of their team with PSG favoured to be the outside fourth challenger after running close last season, despite finishing 6th after a final day slip-up allowed Lille and Toulouse to overtake the Parisiens.
At Germany, Wolfsburg finds itself under even more pressure to retain its first league title just as its strike partnership will have all of Germany and not a few in the rest of Europe watching for a repeat of last season’s record goal haul.
Grafite and Edin Dzeko scored 54 goals between themselves to win the league for Wolfsburg and the addition of Obafemi Martins from Newcastle United will help a long way in easing that pressure of the Wolves.
Wolfsburg however find itself up against Bayern Munich that has brought Dutch tactician Louis van Gaal as manager and added prolific club scorer Mario Gomez to its ranks to bolster an already potent attack that has Miroslav Klose and Luca Toni.
By a mile, Bayern as always enter the season as favourites for the title but if last season’s close competition is to be taken into account, the likes of Bayer Leverkusen and Werder Bremen would be rank outsiders for the title.
But the strongest looking challenge to the title is Schalke 04 courtesy of the capture Felix Magath who has won the Bundesliga title at Stuttgart, Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg last season.
Magath has, along with his experience in Europe’s highest scoring league, he has the core of last season’s team to work with at Schalke.
Both leagues begin their season this weekend with champions Bordeaux starting at home to RC Lens back from Ligue 2 while Lyon travel to Le Mans, Marseille will be at Grenoble and PSG also away at newly promoted Montpellier.
In Germany, Wolfsburg ironically face former boss Magath when Stuttgart visit the Volkswagen Arena on Friday while Bayern is away at Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi’s TSG Hoffenheim that has top scorer Vedad Ibisevic back from injury.
culled from http://www.mynaijanews.com