This weekend all major European leagues are idle due to qualification games for the 2008 European Championship and international friedlies. Beginning with the French I'll take a brief look at the standings and expectations for a couple of the most important leagues.
I have a special little interest in the French league right now as my FC København will face RC Lens in attempting to qualify for this season's UEFA Cup. Le Championnat has also been one of my favorite leagues for betting on match outcomes for a couple of years.
Most figures are in millions of euros (€, which is close to the value of a US dollar). Following mention of a transfer the approximate transfer sum and the previous club is noted in paranthesis). All numbers are to be taken with a grain of salt. Or two. In general, no player estimated below €5m is mentioned.
The gargantuan favorite: Lyon
Recently lost away to Lorient 2-1. Although taking the break at a 5th place once again the 2006/2007 champions, Olympique Lyonnais, is predicted to reign supreme. In fact, they are also one of the more serious contenders in the Champions League - starting out in Group E with Barcelona, Stuttgart and Glasgow Rangers.
Recent transfers: Brazilian defender Anderson (€4m, Benfica) and forward Abdul Kader Keita (€18m, Lille). Significant injuries: Captain defender Cris (mid October) and goalkeeper Gregory Coupet (until December) both with knee injuries. Other profiles: defender Sebastien Squillaci, midfielder Juninho Pernambucano, forward Fred.
Chance of gold medal: 55%. Squad transfer value: €170m.
The pursuit: Bordeaux and Marseille
FC Girondins de Bordeaux have begun their league campaign more or less according to plan producing 14 points in 7 games. They are very unlikely to miss this year's UEFA Cup group phase as they drew with Finnish Tampere for their qualification game.
Recent transfers: Midfielder Alou Diarra (€7.8m, Lyon), Brazilian forward Jussie Ferreira (€6m, Lens). Another profile: defender Marc Planus.
Chance of gold medal: 10-11%. Squad transfer value: €75-80m.
Olympique Marseille finished 2nd last season and could very well repeat the feat. Will also compete in the Champions League starting in group A with Liverpool (from whom they have incidentally just signed two players), Porto and Beşiktaş. Disappointed round 6 by losing 0-2 at home to Nice.
Recent transfers: forward Djibril Cisse (€8m, Liverpool), Dutch midfielder Boudewijn Zenden (€?, Liverpool), Algerian midfielder Karim Ziani (€8m, Sochaux). Significant injuries: goalkeeper Cedric Carrasso (half a year). Other profiles: midfielder Lorik Cana.
Chance of gold medal: 8-9%. Squad transfer value: €100-110m.
The dark horses: Monaco, Paris and Nancy
Not having qualified themselves for European competitions this season these teams can focus on their home league games.
Good old AS Monaco must prove they are better than finishing 9th last year.
Recent transfers: Spanish midfielder Nene (€7m, Celta Vigo). Significant injuries: Camel Meriem (unknown). Other profiles: forwards Frederic Piquionne and Jan Koller.
Chance of gold medal: 5-7%. Squad transfer value: €75m.
Giants of past times Paris Saint-Germain FC finished only 15th (!) last season. 9 points clear of relegation. No doubt about it their squad has quality for more than that. Did however suffer a shock loss to Lorient at home 1-3 on the 15th of August.
Recent transfers: defender Zoumana Camara (€6m, Saint-Etienne). Other profiles: Goalkeeper Mickael Landreau, defender Sylvain Armand, midfielder Jerome Rothen and forward Pauleta.
Chance of gold medal: 3-5%. Squad transfer value: €75m.
AS Nancy Lorraine have kicked off this year by producing an impressive 16 points in 6 games and are currently ahead of the league. Impressive when looking at their roster, but maybe they have a couple of future stars on it?
Recent transfers: Uruguayan defender Damian Rojas Macaluso (€300,000, River Plate). Another profile: defender Sebastien Puygrenier.
Chance of gold medal: 2-4%. Squad transfer value: €45-50m.
Legionnaires: Rennes and Lens
These teams are both facing a round of qualification matches for the UEFA Cup; vs. Lokomotiv Sofia and FC København respectively. But they should also finish top third in the league.
Stade Rennes FC finished 4th last season but are challenged to keep it up.
Recent transfers: forward Sylvain Wiltord (€1.5m, Lyon). Other profiles: midfielder Etienne Didot, defender John Mensah and forward Jimmy Briand.
Chance of gold medal: ~3%. Squad transfer value: €70m.
RC Lens has gotten off on a very wrong foot in their league games so far: zero wins and just 2 points in 5 games. Fired the coach and put legend Jean-Pierre Papin in his place. For some time into the future I will note some news on Lens on my FC København blog, Copenhagen Files.
Recent transfers: quite a few signings of relatively small fees; Ivory Coast midfielder Kanga Akale (€5m, Auxerre). Other profiles: defender Hilton, midfielder Nenad Kovacevic and forward Aruna Dindane.
Chance of gold medal: ~2%. Squad transfer value: €70m.
Phantom menaces: Toulouse and Lille
FC Toulouse impressed everyone by finishing 3rd last season but have been firmly held out of th Champions League by Liverpool and will have to get past CSKA Sofia to qualify for the UEFA Cup instead. They are unlikely to repeat the bronze medal.
Profiles: midfielder Achille Emana Edzimi and forward Johan Elmander.
Chance of gold medal: ~1½%. Squad transfer value: €70m.
Finishing 10th last season can't have satisfied OSC Lille.
Recent transfers: Dutch legend Patrick Kluivert (free transfer, PSV Eindhoven) and a handful of so far unknown foreigners. Profile: midfielder Jean Makoun.
Chance of gold medal: ~2%. Squad transfer value: €60m.
The vulgar masses: St. Etienne, Lorient, Le Mans, Nice, Valenciennes, Strasbourg, Sochaux-Montbéliard and Auxerre
Recent transfers: Only AS St. Etienne may have raised a few eyebrows by signing Brazilian defender Nivaldo (€3m, Belenenses), midfielder Blaise Matuidi (€5m, Troyes) and forward Dimitri Payet (€4m, Nantes). Valenciennes FC has brought in Slovakian forward Filip Sebo (loan, Glasgow Rangers) and Algerian midfielder Djamel Belmadi (€5m, Southampton) while Strasbourg have secured the services of former FC København star player Brazilian forward Alvaro Santos (loan, Sochaux). Significant injuries: Valenciennes midfielder Jeovanio is on "indefinite absence" after a league game injury. Other profiles: Le Mans defender Marko Basa; Saint-Etienne goalkeeper Jeremie Janot, midfielder Pascal Feindouno, strikers Ilan Araujo and Bafetimbi Gomis.
Chance of gold medal: ~4½% collectively. Squad transfer value: varies from about €25m (Lorient, Valenciennes, Strasbourg,) to about €70m (St. Etienne - should perhaps have been put in above category).
The punching bags: Caen and Metz
Promoted from Ligue 2 and likely to return.
Recent transfers: many unknown names.
Chance of gold medal: n/a. Squad transfer value: both about €20-25m.
The French league, Le Championnat, is currently ranked 4th in Europe with a coefficient of 17.706.
Players in bold are typically estimated at €15+ million and established names. Sources include: betinf.com, transfermarkt.de, soccervista.com, in this case kicker.de and others.