Following Monaco's sensational title triumph in 2016-17, normal service was resumed in Ligue 1 last season as Paris Saint-Germain regained their crown by a crushing 13-point margin on the way to another domestic treble
Under the scrutiny of UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules, the 2017 excesses that brought in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe to further skew the balance of power have not been possible for PSG this year. Their most significant acquisition for the campaign that gets underway when Marseille host Toulouse on Friday is Thomas Tuchel.
The former Borussia Dortmund coach is the high-end tactician the capital club's Qatari owners have craved as they turn their attentions towards the final frontier of Champions League success.
For all his undoubted talent, Tuchel has a reputation for falling out with players – something that will make the dynamic between Neymar and other stars fascinating.
Could this and a focus on continental affairs see PSG falter? Perhaps. Whether the best of the rest in Ligue 1 will be anywhere nearby to capitalise if and when they do is another question entirely.
Fabinho's May departure to Liverpool and Thomas Lemar's switch to Atletico Madrid means the remanence of the class of 2016-17 in Monaco are yet more sparse. The shrewd Leonardo Jardim remains at the helm and his club have again dealt in imaginative and intriguing fashion in the transfer market, with prime young talent still the order of the day.
Aleksandr Golovin will have to wait for his debut after suffering an ankle injury and it must be hoped experienced marksman Radamel Falcao can enjoy a similarly fruitful understanding with the gifted Russian playmaker as he once did with Bernardo Silva and Lemar. Last weekend's 4-0 Trophee des Champions defeat to PSG made no secret of the gulf that exists between last season's top two.
Aleksandr Golovin sustained a right ankle sprain during today's training session. pic.twitter.com/Ei3vv53eaW— AS Monaco EN (@AS_Monaco_EN) 8 August 2018
The collapse of captain Nabil Fekir's proposed move to Liverpool gave Lyon an unexpected pre-World Cup boost, although head coach Bruno Genesio did not sound overly confident this week when he discussed the prospects of the mercurial forward sticking around. Likewise, Memphis Depay touting himself around after the friendly against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge was not entirely helpful.
If Fekir and Depay can be retained in tandem, Lyon are likely to remain a formidable proposition on their day. Only PSG managed more than their 87 goals last season and a 78-point haul would have challenged for the title in the days before the present altered Parisian reality.
Merci à tous pour vos messages ! pic.twitter.com/ujsCduyikd— Nabil Fekir (@NabilFekir) 18 July 2018
Marseille's stirring run to a Europa League final on enemy territory in Lyon last season showed how far France's most passionate and volatile club have come under Frank McCourt's ownership and the easy-on-the-eye style of head coach Rudi Garcia. Atletico Madrid's comprehensive 3-0 win in the showpiece demonstrated how far they have left to travel to be a credible challenger to PSG.
Florian Thauvin was one of the most devastating wingers in Europe last season and Dimitri Payet can still leave the best beguiled on his day. Last weekend's 5-2 friendly loss at Bournemouth – Marseille were 5-0 down – was utterly abject but not an entirely fair representation of a side beaten only five times in the league last season. What introducing Mario Balotelli to such relative consistency might do is anyone's guess.
A more yawning chasm than the one between PSG and their nearest rivals came between Marseille and Rennes as 19 points separated fourth and fifth in Ligue 1. Selecting another side primed to shout their way into the Champions League argument is therefore tricky. Nice did just that as they came third in 2016-17, having threatened to turn the title race into a Riviera affair with Monaco.
They fell away last time around, finishing a relatively respectable eighth. Lucien Favre's superb work on the south coast secured a move to Borussia Dortmund and there is palpable anticipation surrounding how Patrick Vieira might fare in his first European coaching post. The inevitable early clash with Balotelli, whose long-mooted switch to Marseille is yet to fully materialise, duly arrived and Alassane Plea and Jean Micheal Seri's departure preceded.
|Korea change sees Bertens take title in Seoul|
|I love Bilic, but I let him down – Arnautovic|
|He will never fight me! Fury hits out at ´ponderous´ Joshua|
|Azpilicueta convinced Hazard can be ´the best´|
|Wigglesworth´s career in Opta numbers as he breaks Premiership record|
|Ronaldo has nothing to prove, says Allegri|
|Federer shines as Europe hold narrow lead at Laver Cup|
|Astros, Yankees and Indians record dramatic wins|
|Pliskova too strong for Osaka in Tokyo final|
|Kyle Busch comes from behind to win again in Virginia|
|Dybala can play as a striker – Allegri|
|Pochettino never doubts ´special´ Kane|
|NASCAR results at Richmond: Kyle Busch comes from behind to win again in Virginia|
|McIlroy just worried about himself at Tour Championship|
|MLS Review: Atlanta stay clear of Red Bulls|
|Rose reminds everyone Woods has been here before|
|Cronk in doubt for Grand Final due to ´severe´ shoulder injury|
|Timberwolves sign Towns to extension|
|Hearn wants Wilder for Joshua, not ´un-entertaining´ Fury|
|Woods pleased with putting consistency|
|Ballon d´Or not a focus for Asensio|
|Man City star Mendy revels in Joshua triumph|
|Braves clinch first NL East title since 2013|
|I want Wilder, says Joshua|
|Inter must live on the edge to win, says jubilant Spalletti|
|Woods leads by three at Tour Championship|
|Bordeaux end Clermont´s perfect start, Zebo at double in Racing win|
|Lopetegui not worried about Courtois footwork|
|Joshua finds emphatic answer to Povetkin challenge|
|BREAKING NEWS: Brutal Joshua knocks out Povetkin in seventh round|
|Real Madrid can´t win 5-0 every week - Varane|
|Al Ahly 4 Horoya 0 (4-0 agg): Egyptian giants reach CAF Champions League semi-finals|
|Kings upset Warriors, Leinster batter Edinburgh|
|Son committed to Tottenham amid Bayern links|
|Simeone hails Atleti´s best LaLiga display of the season|
|Kovac: Bayern ´dominated´ Schalke in 2-0 win|
|Pochettino unimpressed with Tottenham´s tense finish|
|Campbell gains revenge as Price is halted by injury|
|Tottenham fatigue rumours are a myth, claims Rose|
|Widnes defiant after Super League relegation, Saints outclass Wolves|
|NFL must go back to college to eradicate the tie|
|Real Madrid 1 Espanyol 0: Asensio downs old club to earn narrow win|
|Sampdoria 0 Inter 1: Brozovic wins it late after VAR takes centre stage|
|Rudy takes blame for James goal in Bayern win|
|Tiger charges into four-shot lead|
|Players have given their lives to Burnley - Dyche|
|QPR 0 Norwich City 1: Pukki hits winner as hot streak continues|
|Nuno proud of Wolves character in Man United draw|
|Playing for England my dream, says in-form Maddison|
|Brighton and Hove Albion 1 Tottenham 2: Kane on target as Spurs issue firm response|
|Schalke 0 Bayern Munich 2: James and Lewandowski deliver another win|
|Getafe 0 Atletico Madrid 2: Lemar inspires routine win|
|Championship Review: Monk ruins Leeds´ unbeaten streak, McGinn screamer fails to save Villa|
|Bale benched for Real Madrid-Espanyol|
|Biggar fails to rescue Saints at Bath, Bristol and Wasps win|
|Zaha affected by back injury – Hodgson|
|Mourinho slams Manchester United attitude after Wolves stalemate|
|Herbert holds Portugal Masters advantage|
|Warnock blasts ´elementary´ Cardiff mistakes|
|Shaqiri substitution not easy for Klopp|
|Guardiola hopes for even more to come from Aguero|
|Fellaini accepts United closing gap to Premier League summit will be difficult|
|Klizan to face Thiem in St. Petersburg final, Bachinger shocks Nishikori|
|Klopp: Van Dijk injury not serious|
|Mourinho annoyed by Man Utd´s blunt attack in Wolves draw|
|Valverde not ready to consider Barca contract extension|
|Gattuso wary of wounded Atalanta as Higuain receives further advice|
|Burnley 4 Bournemouth 0: Rampant Clarets claim first Premier League win of the season|
|Crystal Palace 0 Newcastle United 0: Sakho misses sitter as Magpies remain winless|
|Cardiff City 0 Manchester City 5: Aguero celebrates new deal with goal in 300th game|