Paris (AFP)

The most successful French club, Asvel is the favorite to succeed in the Elite league, which begins Friday. But, engaged in Euroleague, Lyon-Villeurbanne will face an overloaded schedule and many contenders, whose main is none other than the outgoing finalist, Monaco.

If Asvel aims for a twentieth crown, Monaco, back in the elite in 2015 and unfortunate finalist twice in a row, is the first in its history. Behind, Boulogne-Levallois, Nanterre, Dijon, Strasbourg or Le Mans will try to undermine this hierarchy.

. The Asvel marathon

Defending champion, Villeurbanne will try to achieve the same performance as Limoges in 2015, the last time a club has kept its crown. We were in Pro A, we are in Elite.

Times change, the calendar too. Invited in the sacrosanct Euroleague, Asvel will chain 34 French matches, 34 European matches, plus the Leaders Cup in February. The biggest budget of France however eased this marathon with its premature elimination in Coupe de France, against Strasbourg Tuesday (80-75).

To feed his ambitions, the team chaired by Tony Parker recruited. The leader Antoine Diot is back home, after four seasons in Valencia, a Liga, a Eurocoupe? and an injury, which kept him off the floor for many months. He will find in the Rhone his friend Edwin Jackson, back to Asvel after discovering Spain, China and more recently Montenegro.

Having an extended group with 13 professionals, synonymous with opulence in France, is "a big advantage, we can put a lot of pace," Diot appreciates.

. Monaco: the third is the good?

On the side of the Principality, we have a makeover. Younger, beefier. This is the double order of recruitment to give the means to finally win the Grail after two lost finals (against Le Mans and Asvel). While the Roca Team has recorded arrivals, it has also kept three essentials of its five major: the leader Dee Bost, the pillar Eric Buckner and the back Yacouba Ouattara.

The latter, French international who will have in mind the Olympic Games, is shared in front of the arrival of Asvel in Euroleague. On the one hand, they "will rub the best European teams, forge a huge experience". On the other, they are going to have "a lot of games and play on both sides". In any case, "it will be up to us to raise our level of play", he summarizes.

. Dense Championship and Prom Ball

"Nobody is unbeatable, we have seen in previous seasons, everyone can beat everyone," said David Michineau Metropolitans. This new entity, born from the merger between Boulogne and Levallois, will be one of the best armed to derail the two locomotives. Sign of his ambition: the arrival to his presidency of Boris Diaw. Diaw and Parker, at Asvel since 2014, new rivals. They are the former glories of the France team.

In this high-density championship, the other club "Paris", Nanterre, strongly renewed this summer, could also play the role of blazer in chief. Like Dijon, semi-finalist beaten by Monaco, who has preserved his skeleton and the MVP 2019, the American pocket (1m73) David Holston.

Five disappointed finalist from 2013 to 2017, Strasbourg will want to forget the disillusionment of the lost quarter against Dijon last year. "We want to find the top 4", says the experienced pivot Ali Traore. For the last season of coach Vincent Collet of France as coach, the SIG intends to win back the Rhénus, the largest audience with 5,741 spectators average (2018/19).

. Passage to 16, descent to 3

Others could also have their say like Le Mans, champion of France 2018, Limoges, Pau-Orthez or Bourg-en-Bresse. But recent champions like Chalon (2017, 2012) or Cholet (2010), will mainly try to stay in the Elite.

This task has been made difficult with the passage of 18 to 16 clubs in the 2020-21 season and, as a result, the relegation of three clubs to Pro B this year. Roanne and Orleans, who have just taken the elevator to the Elite, will be, like all the others, first of all anxious to stay in the tight elite of French basketball.

© 2019 AFP