Ibra overshadows French curtain-raiser
The Champions Trophy, the curtain-raiser to the French season, will be held at the Red Bull Arena on Saturday, with reigning champions Montpellier coming up against French Cup holders Lyon.
This is the fourth consecutive year in which the Champions Trophy has been held outwith France, with Montreal, Tunis and Tangier also having staged the match in recent seasons.
The home of Thierry Henry's New York Red Bulls, a short drive to the west of Manhattan, will host the game, marking the first time it has been held in a non-French speaking country.
But just as Montpellier and Lyon, and the rest of Ligue 1, have spent the summer in the shadows of big-spending Paris Saint-Germain, that looks set to be the case again this weekend.
If there are any Americans with an interest in French football, they are more likely to be tuning into events in Washington later on Saturday, when Zlatan Ibrahimovic could make his PSG debut in a friendly against DC United.
The club from the capital have been preparing for the new season not far from here, in Princeton, while Montpellier arrived in New York on Wednesday, fresh from a 3-0 friendly win against Major League Soccer side Sporting Kansas City.
Lyon, meanwhile, come into the Champions Trophy on the back of a friendly win of their own against Montreal Impact on Tuesday.
PSG have replaced Lyon as the heavyweights of the French game, with OL's run of seven consecutive league titles between 2002-08 now but a distant memory.
They did win the French Cup last season but their failure to qualify for the Champions League has left coach Remi Garde with no funds to spend on a squad in desperate need of refurbishment, particularly in defence.
OL have to sell before they can buy, with goalkeeper, and France captain, Hugo Lloris and other high earners such as Cris, Kim Kallstrom, Michel Bastos and Aly Cissokho among the players potentially on their way out.
Meanwhile, Argentine striker Lisandro Lopez suffered a calf injury against Montreal Impact that could rule him out of this game, with Garde keen not to aggravate the problem two weeks before the start of the new Ligue 1 campaign.
"Lisandro felt a slight weakness but I think he stopped just in time to ensure the injury is not too serious," said Garde, before adding that the striker's chances of featuring against Montpellier were "seriously compromised."
It is barely two months since unfashionable Montpellier beat big-spending PSG to win the first league title in their history.
Since then, star player Olivier Giroud has been sold to Arsenal, while defender Daniel Congre, former Lyon winger Anthony Mounier and Argentine striker Emanuel Herrera have all arrived and are set to make their competitive debuts this weekend.
Captain Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, flying full-back Henri Bedimo and playmaker Younes Belhanda all remain on the books despite interest from elsewhere and, while Belhanda is suspended this weekend, Rene Girard's side should still fancy their chances of lifting more silverware.
"We want to end our pre-season preparations and kick off the new campaign by winning a trophy," says goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren.
"We will be up against a Lyon side that has been champions of France many times in the past and are a great club, but if we can win this trophy it would be another historic moment for Montpellier."