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Why will four teams be relegated this season?

Why will four teams be relegated this season?

Publish on 04/20 at 20:31


The scrap for survival at the bottom of the Ligue 1 Uber Eats table is intensifying with four teams going down this season. explains the reasons for the increase in the number of relegation places and examines the state of play at the bottom.

Put simply, four teams are going down this year because of the decision to reduce the number of clubs in the top tier from 20 down to 18 from the start of next season. That means only two teams will come up from Ligue 2. The play-off system - which in recent campaigns has seen the clubs finishing from third to fifth in the second tier play off against each other for the right to take on the 18th-place club in the top flight over two legs – has been dispensed with this season.

As a result there will be just 34 matchdays in Ligue 1 Uber Eats from 2023-24, rather than the current 38 rounds. The system of two up, two down plus play-offs will return next year. The General Assembly of the LFP voted overwhelmingly for the move to reduce the number of clubs to 18 in June 2021, with more than 97 percent in favour. The move was hailed by the LFP as “the first step in a more comprehensive reform of French professional football”. Later that year another vote came out in favour of reducing the number of clubs in Ligue 2 to 18 as of the 2024-25 season.

It will be a new era for the French game, but not that new – the top flight was comprised of 18 clubs between 1997 and 2002, a five-season spell which delivered five different champions. Ligue 1 will now be realigned with the German Bundesliga, the only major European league to feature 18 clubs instead of 20 at the moment.

Fewer matches, more money to go round

It is hoped the change will bring with it numerous benefits, not least the fact that a reduced number of domestic matches should help French clubs competing in UEFA competitions by giving players more time to rest, especially as the expansion of the Champions League will mean eight games in the group stage from 2024 rather than the current six.

In addition, the reduced number of teams will logically allow for a greater share of the pie for each club in future television contracts, with an invitation to tender for the next broadcast cycle set to take place later this year.

Strasbourg Ajaccio Mothiba

It all fits in with the LFP’s ambition to ensure that Ligue 1 Uber Eats is not simply one member of a so-called ‘Big Five’ European leagues in future. Earlier this season LFP president Vincent Labrune insisted the aim was to be “within five years not just in the top four, but on the podium in Europe, both in terms of results and in terms of revenues”.

Bottom three cut adrift, four teams fight to avoid one place

In the short term, the impact on the clubs at the foot of the table is there for all to see. Three teams are cut adrift, with Angers SCO destined for the drop – that could be confirmed this weekend in Round 32 - and both AC Ajaccio and ESTAC Troyes looking set to go down as well as they each lie 10 points from safety.

Above them it is RC Strasbourg Alsace who occupy 17th place and sit below the dreaded dotted line as things stand. Frédéric Antonetti’s team are two points adrift of both Stade Brestois 29 and FC Nantes, with AJ Auxerre a further point better off. It is surely between those four teams for the final relegation place, although neither Montpellier Hérault SC nor Toulouse FC will say they are safe just yet.

Just three of Strasbourg’s final seven matches are at their own Stade de la Meinau, where they will notably entertain an in-form Olympique Lyonnais and champions-elect Paris Saint-Germain. They must also travel to relegation rivals Nantes in early May.

Distracted by their upcoming Coupe de France final, Nantes have gone eight Ligue 1 games without winning and need to gather some momentum again quickly. Perhaps crucially, four of their remaining seven matches are against teams below them in the table.

Brest have been competitive since the appointment of Éric Roy as coach and the fact they will get to play both Nantes and Auxerre at home in the run-in could be vital. But it is Auxerre who have been in the best form, with the Burgundy club having suffered a single defeat in 10 league outings and winning their last three. Having spent a decade spent out of the top flight before winning promotion last year in the play-offs, they are desperate to avoid making an immediate return to Ligue 2.


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