Only one French side have ever been crowned the continent's top club, and this season's trio from l'Hexagone may struggle to change that.
"Every team have their strengths, we have good players," claimed Paris Saint-Germain FC's sporting director Leonardo. After a heavy summer spending spree, they certainly have the air of a serious challenger. Zlatan Ibrahimović has undoubted pedigree, as does his ex-AC Milan team-mate Thiago Silva, and the pair are just two of a quintet of high-profile arrivals.
The knock-on effect of all this transfer business initially manifested itself in a patchy opening to the Ligue 1 campaign. However, Ibrahimović has looked sharp in front of goal, and Carlo Ancelotti appears to be moulding his squad into a cohesive force, one which should at least emerge from Group A.
LOSC Lille have a tougher draw in Group F, though second place is far from an unrealistic goal. However, they will have to show they have learned from the chastening experience of last season's group stage in which they finished bottom after dropping seven points at home.
They will also need to be more convincing than they were in squeezing past FC København in the play-offs. Lille must hope UEFA Champions League winner Salomon Kalou can help compensate for the loss of Eden Hazard, their sole bona fide world-class player.
The absence of Olivier Giroud will also weigh heavily on Montpellier Hérault SC when the French champions make their group stage bow. Youngsters such as central defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and artful midfielder Younés Belhanda have the talent to hog the limelight, but René Girard's men will surely rue their lack of big-game nous and the absence of Giroud's goals.
A slow start to the domestic campaign hardly augurs well, but colourful club president Louis Nicollin, rather resignedly, believes the European scene will suit his team. "They'll be good in the Champions League," he grumbled recently. "They're so worried they'll look like muppets!"
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
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