Though Paris Saint-Germain might seem to be a long-standing, dominant club in Ligue 1, they’ve only won France’s top-flight league four times since entering it in 1974. Two of those championships have come in the last two years, due In large part to the Qatari ownership group which bought the team in 2011 and began spending on marquee players.
David Luiz is nicknamed Sideshow Bob by some for his uncanny resemblance to the wild-maned Simpsons character, and this year has brought quite the sideshow. He starred for a Chelsea team that went far in two major competitions but fell short of silverware, starred for a Brazil team that was expected to win the World Cup before flaming out in spectacular supernova fashion, and moved to PSG for the upcoming season for a jaw-dropping £50 million transfer fee. While he might enjoy a move away from the unforgiving English media, they’ll be hovering once PSG gets its Champions League campaign rolling.
One thing that David Luiz won’t be doing in the upcoming season is wearing his customary #4 jersey—that number was snapped up last year by Yohan Cabaye, who moved from England’s less cosmopolitan home of French international players, Newcastle. Cabaye hasn’t yet gotten the consistent starts in PSG’s talent-laden midfield as he had with his former squad, in large part due to the flashy, pass-happy Marco Verratti, but his talent for free kicks and long shots make him an outstanding option for late-game magic making.
The David Luiz marquee signing also allows him to play alongside Thiago Silva in the back, though the two of them probably won’t spend much time reminiscing about how they spent their summer. Silva, of course, famously missed Germany’s 7-1 rout of Brazil in the World Cup semis due to yellow card accumulation, and then fouled Arjen Robben in the third-place game as fans were still settling into their seats, leading to the first goal in the Netherlands’ 3-0 dismantling of the hosts.
The other newcomer to the PSG defense, on loan from Toulouse, is Serge Aurier, the Ivory Coast right-back who emerged from the World Cup as one of the most promising starlets to watch. He particularly shone in a 2-1 win over Japan, supplying the runs up the wings and crosses that helped the African team strike twice within minutes to turn the match around.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the tall, well-traveled, perhaps overconfident Swedish striker scores often, with an array of audacious volleys, absurd trick shots, and straightforward blasts in his arsenal. Zlatan, who’s getting more first-name recognition thanks to Nike’s Dare to Zlatan campaign, scored 41 goals in 45 comps for PSG last year, but picked up a hip injury on the opening day of the season that could leave him sidelined for a month. Until his hip heals, he’ll be unable to do things like this:
For many other clubs and international sides, Edinson Cavani would be the team’s number one striker and its offensive focal point. But Cavani happens to play for Uruguay, where Luis Suarez has dominated headlines (for various reasons), and plays alongside Zlatan at PSG. Still, the 27-year-old scored 25 goals in 43 matches for his club last year, and despite only scoring a single goal (on a PK, no less) in World Cup play, he should have another season of trying to keep pace with his prolific teammate—provided the transfer rumors swirling around him don’t manifest into a move.
Laurent Blanc, who earned the nickname “Le Président” in his playing days for his leadership skills, replaced Carlo Ancelotti in 2013 as PSG’s manager when Ancoletti found the chance to manage Real Madrid too tempting. As formidable as that replacement task might seem, it’s nothing compared to what he stepped into in 2010—he became France’s manager following the team’s dramatic meltdown in the 2010 World Cup. In his first move as manager there, he suspended all 23 World Cup participants for his first match as manager.
Spain has its El Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona, and France has a similar derby —Le Classique—pitting top-flight teams from different regions and cultures against each other in a rivalry that often helps determine championships. PSG will face Olympique de Marseilles twice this year—at home on November 9, and away on April 4. Americans eager to learn more about Ligue 1 should start here by tuning into the Euro-friendly, Al-Jazeera-owned BeIn Sport network.
Though PSG will be eager to go for a three-peat in Ligue 1, the team is built for winning the Champions League, and their fortunes will be shaped by the Champions League draw happening Aug. 28 in Monaco—home to PSG’s newest Ligue 1 title rival. PSG is in Pot 2 in UEFA’s confounding draw process, putting them an echelon below teams like Chelsea (who bounced PSG in last year’s quarterfinals) and defending champs Real Madrid, but still making them one of the favorites to advance past group play.