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5 players to watch in Ligue 1 this season

The new Ligue 1 season is almost upon us; these five players will be worth watching out for.

The new Ligue 1 season gets underway this Friday, when Marseille host Toulouse, who escaped relegation last season via the playoffs.

PSG, who have won five out of the last six Ligue 1 titles, go into the season as heavy favorites to retain their crown under new boss Thomas Tuchel.

They finished last season with a goalless draw at Caen, and begin the new season with a game against the same team, but this time at home.

Ahead of the new Ligue 1 season, these five players are ones to watch.

Pietro Pellegri (Monaco)

Pellegri joined Monaco from boyhood club Genoa in Italy in January for an initial £17.1 million, becoming the second-most expensive 16-year-old in football history.

He’s also the joint-youngest Serie A appearance maker at 16 years and 280 days, and was the first player born in 2001 to score in the Italian top division.

Big things are expected, despite Pellegri being so young, with Genoa president Enrico Preziosi doing nothing to calm the hype by comparing his former player to Lionel Messi.

Still just 17 (he turns 18 in March next year), Leonardo Jardim is expected to utilize him with the first team. The Monaco boss has had success with the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Thomas Lemar and Bernardo Silva before, and will have no hesitation in throwing him in if he feels he can handle it.

Pellegri played three times last season as he settled into his new surroundings, so will be able to hit the ground running if he is called upon. Radamel Falcao remains the French side’s main central forward, but at 32 and with a checkered injury history, Pellegri will get his chance to excite.

Monaco have been the ideal club for young players with limitless talent to shine and then make a bigger move, and Pellegri could be the next in line.

Houssem Aouar (Lyon)

French under-21 international Houssem Aouar is expected to have a huge season.

A few weeks ago, when it looked like Lyon’s captain Nabil Fekir was to move to Liverpool, Aouar was tipped to be Lyon’s replacement, so clearly there are high hopes for the young attacking midfielder.

Even if Fekir remains at the Groupama Stadium, which looks likely to be the case, Aouar will flourish alongside him.

He has drawn comparisons with Philippe Coutinho and signed a new five-year contract extension at Lyon over the summer. He will be looking to build on his 35 league appearances and ten Europa League games this coming season, and looks set to be a star for his team.

Lyon will have to find a way of incorporating both him and Fekir into the side, but if they get that balancing act right, both could thrive.

Florian Thauvin (Marseille)

Thauvin, until this season just gone, was known simply for being a Newcastle flop than anything else, but exploded into life for Marseille in 2017-18.

It was easily the best season of his career, ended by being a part of the French World Cup squad who won the tournament in Russia, as he scored a total of 25 club goals.

He only made one brief appearance in Russia for France, against Argentina from the bench, but that was more down to the quality France have in attacking areas than anything else.

The man who infamously turned up to a Newcastle game wearing a tuxedo, who only scored once in 16 matches in his time at St James’ Park — against Northampton Town — got 22 Ligue 1 goals last season and 18 assists in all competitions.

So good was his season that Unai Emery was linked with bringing him to the Emirates this July, and despite having seemingly been around forever, Thauvin is still only 25.

The question now is probably whether he can keep up last season’s amazing form; get anywhere close to those numbers again and he certainly will have done.

As he approaches the peak of his career, have another season like the last one and Marseille will have a job on their hands to keep him next summer.

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Presnel Kimpembe (PSG)

PSG are not known for bringing through exciting academy starlets, but Kimpembe could be the exception to the rule.

He is not an expensive arrival, so has gone under the radar so far, but will save the club millions when he establishes himself as a big player in the centre of defence.

He was handed a start in PSG’s crunch clash with Real Madrid in last season’s Champions League last-16 ahead of Brazilian international Thiago Silva, so already has experience at the top level, and was part of the PSG team who beat Barcelona 4-0 in 2016-17, keeping Lionel Messi quiet on the night.

When the second leg saw Barcelona incredibly win 6-1 to progress, Kimpembe was on the bench.

He has three international caps to date, as well as 54 Ligue 1 appearances, and is a left-footed defender who can play at left-back or, as he more often does, in the middle.

Composed on the ball and excellent at reading the game, he could cement his place for club and country this season alongside fellow young defender Marquinhos.

It would surprise no PSG fan if he were to become a stalwart of the team by the end of the campaign, which makes him a worthy player to keep an eye on at Ligue 1’s top club.

Rony Lopes (Monaco)

Former Manchester City man Rony Lopes moved to Monaco for €12 million, and spent 18 months at Lille on loan before moving back to the principality last season.

The Portuguese international, who has one cap for his country, made 38 league appearances last season, scoring 15 times and assisting seven.

He also appeared five times in the Champions League as Monaco went out in the group stages.

With Thomas Lemar sold to Atletico Madrid, he will be able to step up. Lemar had a poor season last season in comparison to when Monaco won Ligue 1 the season before, but even so his place in the team will need filling.

Away from Manchester City, Lopes has been given a chance to impress and has certainly taken it so far — that should only continue.

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