BBC Sport profiles six Africans to watch in France

Lille will be out to defend their title but without new Arsenal signing Gervinho (far right) although Moussa Sow and Aurelien Chedjou (holding trophy) remain

As Lille set out to defend their league and cup titles this season try must do without Ivory Coast playmaker Gervinho, who signed for English Premier League side Arsenal.

Other key performers to have departed since May include Morocco's Youssef El Arabi, who left Caen for Saudi Arabia, and Nigerian Ideye Brown, who joined Dynamo Kiev from Sochaux.

Nonetheless, France is one of the leagues with the greatest number of African players - and BBC Sport profiles six to watch.


Tunisia's Aymen Abdennour
Abdennour is a former captain of Tunisia's Olympic side

The Tunisian international, who signed from Etoile du Sahel in the close season, has already been impressing in the heart of defence in his early appearances.

Able to play both at left back and in left midfield if required, the 21-year-old is replacing "The Commander", Argentina's Mauro Cetto who joined Palermo in June.

A former Olympic captain, Abdennour is a ball-winner who gained Bundesliga experience when loaned out by Etoile to Werder Bremen last year.

His first foray into European football was not a total success, but there are higher hopes for his maiden season in France.


Senegal's Moussa Sow
Sow will be under pressure to retain his top scorer trophy (above)

Last season's top scorer with 25 league goals, Moussa Sow has started the new season in the same form.

He struck in the Champions Trophy match against cup winners Marseille, although he will need to continue finding the net to show that last season was no flash in the pan.

Unfortunately for Sow, Gervinho's departure has deprived him of a regular supply line of chance but thankfully, and perhaps more crucially, Eden Hazard - last season's player of the year - remains.

The one concern for coach Rudi Garcia is how much Senegal's probably appearance at next January's Africa Cup of Nations finals will affect Sow's displays.


Senegal's Idriss Gana Gueye
Gueye arrived at Lille after graduating from the Diambars academy in 2008

This could be the season that the defensive midfielder comes of age in Ligue 1, with Gueye having already experienced both league and Europa League football.

The 22-year-old was one of the first graduates from Patrick Vieira's Diambars academy in Senegal to make it into a top-level European team.

Although appearances may be restricted by a midfield including Rio Mavuba, Benoit Pedretti and Florent Balmont, he will hope to force his way in.

Gueye has already learnt plenty from being an understudy to Mavuba, the captain of Lille's historic double winners.


Ghana's Andre 'Dede' Ayew
Ayew started the season with three goals in the Champions Trophy

Andre 'Dede' Ayew is definitely the main African attraction in the French league, despite the successes of Moussa Sow and others.

Ayew is seemingly following the foosteps of his famous father with ease, having both represented Ghana with success and impressed at Marseille where father Abedi, a three-time African Footballer of the Year, shone.

A flamboyant midfielder with an eye for goal, Ayew showed his increasing potency in front of goal when bagging a hat-trick in last month's Champions Trophy defeat of Lille in Morocco.

The 21-year-old, whose brother Jordan is also on the up, came of age last season and will attract the attention of Europe's top clubs should his fine form continue.


Burkina Faso's Jonathan Pitroipa
Pitroipa ended a seven-year stay in Germany when joining Rennes in July

The Burkinabe international looks a perfect fit for Rennes, where he will be occupying the right flank.

Signed from Hamburg in July, the talented 25-year-old could be the spark Rennes need to break into the top three.

With electric dribbling skills, "Jon" is likely to compete with Dede Ayew for the title of best wingman in the French league.

After mixed fortunes in Germany, Pitroipa needs to show consistency if he is to win over the critics.


Mali's Modibo Maiga
Maiga bagged 15 goals last season as Sochaux finished fifth in the league

Last season, the Malian played a key role, along with Nigeria's Ideye Brown, in taking Sochaux up to a surprising fifth place in the league.

With his good friend having since left for Dynamo Kiev in the Ukraine, Maiga will do well to equal his record tally of 15 strikes last season.

The former Le Mans and Raja Casablanca missed just two league games last year but may fail to match that achievement should Mali qualify for the 2012 Nations Cup.