Neymar and Kylian Mbappé's formidable duo at PSG, Roberto Moreno's new-look Monaco, Victor Osimhen, and the battle for the Champions League spots, Ian Holyman highlights five things to light up the second half of the season.
Neymar & Mbappé
Injury limited the impact the pair could make on the pitch at the same time for Paris Saint-Germain in the first half of the campaign, adding to the frustration for PSG fans that they haven't seen more of them together since they arrived in the French capital in summer 2017. Serious injuries to Neymar have curtailed his past two seasons, and in the hope such things do not really come in threes, their run into the winter break promises much.
WATCH: Mbappé and Neymar take apart Montpellier
Paired together in the starting XI for the first time for the Week 16 win over FC Nantes, Mbappé and Neymar scored the goals in a 2-0 triumph that heralded a productive four-game flourish: six goals and an assist for Mbappé, four goals and four assists for the Brazilian. All of Neymar's quartet of final passes were for Mbappé to finish. If they can maintain that form — and they certainly have the talent — then there will be fireworks between now and the end of the season from the French champions. And we haven't even mentioned Mauro Icardi and Angel Di Maria…
The 5-1 thumping of LOSC Lille before the winter break was not enough to keep Leonardo Jardim in a job, and has given an opportunity for Roberto Moreno to take on his first major club coaching role. An assistant coach at a clutch of La Liga sides and AS Roma, and the stand-in for Luis Enrique as Spain boss, Moreno is something of an unknown quantity as a number one, but his Spain side were unbeaten in six UEFA EURO 2020 qualifiers en route to clinching their place at next summer's final tournament.
He also inherits a Monaco side that, after a poor start, had started moving in the right direction, ending three points off fourth and five off third with a game in hand at the halfway stage. With Wissam ben Yedder — the league's top scorer with 13 — and Islam Slimani — the division's joint-top goalmaker — proving a highly productive partnership up front, Moreno will hope the Coupe de France defeat of Stade de Reims that got his reign off to a winning if shaky start is the first of many.
The podium battle
Predictions — more often than not — make you look foolish. And only a fool would attempt to foresee the three teams that will fill the positions that bring with them UEFA Champions League football next season. PSG do have a comfortable cushion seven points clear of second-placed Olympique de Marseille, who themselves are five points ahead of the chasing pack, but not even they will be sitting comfortably.
No fewer than ten different teams have at one stage or another occupied one of the top three spots this season, including early season surprise packages Angers SCO and Stade de Reims.
Heavyweights Girondins de Bordeaux and Olympique Lyonnais have been there too, but bad runs before the winter break dropped them into the lower half of the table. Bordeaux were third with three games left in 2019; they ended the year in 13th. And just as a bad run can cost you, a good one, such as the five straight wins that propelled Stade Rennais FC into third come Christmas, can get you right back in the hunt.
The top half of the table and beyond will head into the second half of the season with justifiable belief they can finish in the top three. See what I mean about making predictions?
When LOSC Lille signed the Nigeria international forward from Charleroi in the summer to replace Rafael Leao, hands up all those who thought he'd be such a success? If your hand is up, you're surely lying!
Not that his talent had not already been recognised. German club Wolfsburg brought him to Europe from his home town of Lagos, and though he did not establish himself at the Bundesliga outfit, his ratio of a goal every other game for Charleroi last season suggested the potential was there.
Potential is one thing, exploiting it is another, especially when you have to take a step up in class, but Osimhen managed to do that brilliantly in the first half of the season. He was one of the bright lights in an otherwise dreary UEFA Champions League campaign, while his ten league goals is a tally bettered only by Mbappé and Ben Yedder. At 21, there is a lot more to come, and we will surely see some of it in the months ahead.
France has consistently produced young talent, but this season looks like being one of the best ever. Eduardo Camavinga, 17, at Rennes is following in the footsteps of a host of top-quality players to have emerged from the Breton club's youth academy, and having broken into the France U21 side, is surely en route for a senior call-up in the near future.
He's joined by a wealth of teenage talents who have all been given their chance to shine, and who we'll surely see more of in the second half of the season. Rayan Cherki, 16, and Adil Aouchiche, 17, both scored in Lyon and PSG's Coupe de France wins to start 2020 with a freshfaced feel while Wesley Fofana, who turned 19 just before Christmas, has shown immense promise at AS Saint-Étienne where the 18-year-old William Saliba had already caught the eye.
Bordeaux's Aurélien Tchouameni and Yacine Adli, both 19, have played central roles under Paulo Sousa this season, while Marseille boss Andre Villas-Boas has complemented the experience of the likes of Dimitri Payet and Steve Mandanda with the youthful talents of Boubacar Kamara, Lucas Perrin and Marley Aké.
With FC Nantes' Imran Louza, 20, LOSC Lille's Boubakary Soumaré, 20, and Montpellier Hérault SC Joris Chotard, 18, Ligue 1 Conforama is shaping up to be the league of all young talents in 2020.