Ligue 1 is back on Friday night, and ahead of French football’s return, we’ve had another look at our season predictions. Will Lyon be relegated? Can Nice win the title? We look at the numbers to answer all those questions and more, with an update to our Ligue 1 season predictions after 12 rounds of fixtures.
Ligue 1 Season Predictions: Quick Hits
Title Favourites: Paris Saint-Germain
Top Four Favourites: PSG, Nice, Monaco, Reims
Relegation Candidates: Clermont Foot, Metz (plus Lyon in the relegation play-off!)
Before the season kicked off, the Opta supercomputer ran 10,000 simulations of the Ligue 1 2023-24 season to give us an idea as to how it saw things panning out. It stuck its neck on the line, and went with the bold prediction that Paris Saint-Germain would win the title… again.
Now, 12 games into the season, the Parisian giants haven’t quite had things all their way; they may be top of the table, but Nice and Monaco are making a decent fist of creating a title battle. However, as we’ll soon see, PSG remain overwhelming favourites to win the league.
Here, after firing up the supercomputer during the November international break, we have an update to our Ligue 1 season predictions.
The table below provides a percentage that corresponds to how often in 10,000 season simulations each club finished in a given position, and after that you’ll find our analysis.
Who Will Win Ligue 1 in 2023-24?
PSG hold a slender lead at the top of the table, currently just one point clear of overachieving Nice, who have started the season in some style. However, the Ligue 1 title holders are looking extremely likely to retain the title according to the Opta supercomputer. In its latest 10,000 simulations of the season in the French first tier, PSG won the league 88.4% of the time. That makes them more likely to win the title than any other team in Europe’s top five leagues, though Manchester City (84.5%), Inter Milan (84.4%) and Bayern Munich (80.4%) are all said to have more than a four-in-five chance of winning their leagues.
Before the season, PSG were deemed to have a 55.5% chance of winning Ligue 1, but a poor start to the campaign from both of their most likely challengers, Lens and Marseille, has seen PSG’s title chances shoot up. Even Lyon (more on them later) were said to have a 3.0% chance of winning the league before the start of the season. Now bottom of the league, Lyon’s numbers have been hoovered up by the title-winning machine that is PSG.
Luis Enrique’s side have taken a while to get going – they drew their first two games of the season and then lost at home to Nice five games in – but they appear to now be hitting their stride. They have five wins in a row to their name and are top of the pile after Nice slipped up last time out. The supercomputer has now been almost fully convinced of PSG’s title credentials.
Nice, this season’s surprise package who are currently sitting in second place, are the second favourites for the title. They are the only other side that the Opta supercomputer says has more than a 5% chance of winning the league, but their chances are still dwarfed by PSG’s.
Despite impressing under Francesco Farioli, the supercomputer doesn’t think Nice’s title challenge is particularly sustainable; they have scored only 13 goals in 12 games so far, and their chances are rated at just 7.7%, with third-placed Monaco third favourites to win the league (2.6%). The league’s other 15 teams won the title in the remaining 1.3% of the supercomputer’s simulations, with Lille making up 0.8% of those. It all suggests a tenth PSG title in 12 years is pretty much a foregone conclusion.
Who Will Qualify for the Champions League?
You probably won’t get very good odds, but you may as well go and bet your mortgage on PSG getting into the top four. They have a 99.9% chance of qualifying for the Champions League once again according to the Opta supercomputer.
Joining them in Europe’s premier competition will be the rest of the current top four – Nice, Monaco and Lille – if the supercomputer is correct.
Nice have an 89.7% chance of making the top four, so the supercomputer thinks they have given themselves a huge chance with their strong start to the season. Monaco (73.8%) and Lille (53.7%) are both more likely than not to qualify for the Champions League as well.
Before a ball was kicked, PSG and Lille were the only two of these teams expected to make the top four, and they were predicted to finish first and fourth, respectively – the exact positions they currently occupy.
Paulo Fonseca’s Lille are only there on goal difference, though, with Will Still’s Reims hot on their heels and seeking a route into Europe. Reims have an 11.5% chance of making the top four, and are in fact most likely to finish in seventh (18.2% chance).
Last season’s surprise package Lens have been slowly climbing the table in recent weeks and are actually third favourites for a top-four finish, given a 37.0% chance.
Marseille, our pre-season favourites for a third-place finish, are languishing down in 11th at the moment, but the supercomputer still thinks they should have the quality in their squad to rescue their season under Gennaro Gattuso. The Italian has only overseen one win in his five games in charge, but they have been playing well enough to deserve a little more than they have to show for their efforts (more on that below). They are said to have a 25.7% chance of making the top four.
Rennes and Brest – both at around 3% – are the only other teams given any significant chance of finishing in the top four.
Who Will be Relegated From Ligue 1?
The biggest story in Ligue 1 this season has been the dreadful form of fallen giants Lyon. Bottom of the league with just one win and seven points from 11 games, there are genuine fears they could go down.
However, if the Opta supercomputer is right about how the season will go from here then Lyon, who picked up their first win of the season in the final game before the international break, could still just about survive. They have a 26.2% chance of finishing in the bottom two, with two other sides deemed more likely to go down. They are, nonetheless, most likely to finish 16th and head into a relegation play-off.
Before the season began, newly promoted sides Metz and Le Havre were deemed the favourites for the drop. They have both made good starts to life in the top flight, though, currently 12th and seventh respectively, with Le Havre even dreaming of European qualification.
However, Le Havre are closer in points terms to the relegation playoff position than they are the top five, and the Opta supercomputer isn’t easily fooled. Metz, two points below Le Havre, are still one of the most likely teams to be relegated from Ligue 1 this season.
The other is Clermont Foot, who are currently 17th, one place of the, erm, foot, of the table, although a recent upturn in their form – they have won two and drawn one of their last four – will have given them hope that they can survive.
Le Havre are backed to stay up, but their most likely finishing position is 15th or 16th, the latter of which would mean a relegation play-off.
Ligue 1 Expected Points
Our expected points model simulates the number of goals scored by each side in each match based on the expected goals (xG) value of every shot taken. It then uses the simulated number of goals to determine the match outcome (win/draw/loss), with each game run through the model 10,000 times. The expected points for each team in every match can then be calculated based on the proportion of simulations they win/draw/lose. This is of course not an exact science, as xG data doesn’t include a lot of factors, such as game state and dangerous periods of possession that don’t lead to shots.
We can use this over the course of a season to see which teams have deserved their points totals, which have underachieved compared to their performances and which teams have overachieved.
The model suggests that Marseille should have seven more points than the 13 they actually have, and could actually be in the top four. That will at least in part explain why they still have more than a one-in-four chance of making the top four despite being in the bottom half of the table.
At the other end, the biggest difference between points and expected points is that of Lyon, whose performances are deserving of more like 12.5 points than the seven they have.
Hope, after all, for two of France’s biggest teams, both of whom are in positions well below their pre-season expectations.
Opta-Simulated Ligue 1 2023-24 Table
After simulating the remainder of the 2023-24 season 10,000 times, we’re able to average the points total of every club across those simulations and therefore rank teams positionally. Here are the Opta supercomputer results from those simulations:
15th: Le Havre
How Does the Opta Supercomputer Model Work?
- Opta’s League Prediction model estimates the likelihood of teams finishing in each position in the competition. We can therefore see how successful a team’s season is likely to be, whether it is their relegation or title chances.
- The model estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) by using betting market odds and Opta Power Rankings. The odds and rankings are based on historical and recent team performances.
- The model considers the strength of opponents by using these match outcome probabilities and simulates the remaining fixtures in the competition thousands of times. By analysing the outcome of each of these simulations, the model can see how often teams finished in each league position to create final predictions.