PARIS, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Five-times champions Olympique Lyon will begin their Ligue 1 title defence with virtually a reserve team in their season opener at Nantes on Friday.
Keeper Gregory Coupet, defenders Eric Abidal and Cris, midfielders Florent Malouda, Juninho and Tiago, and forwards Fred, Sidney Govou and Sylvain Wiltord will all miss the trip to the Stade de La Beaujoire after their World Cup duties.
The club had asked the Ligue to postpone the beginning of the season, but were turned down.
However, a mainly second-string Lyon side won the Trophy of Champions against Cup winners Paris St Germain on penalties last weekend. The side also included Sweden midfielder Kim Kallstrom and Switzerland defender Patrick Mueller.
'We have shown against Paris that Lyon are more than a team, it's a squad that can win titles without our international players,' said Brazilian centre back Claudio Cacapa.
Nantes will be looking to improve on a disappointing season, having finished 14th, but have lost their talismanic keeper and captain Mickael Landreau, now at Paris St Germain.
PSG, who will be without France midfielder Vikash Dhorasoo and Portugal striker Pedro Pauleta, have an easy start against promoted Lorient at the Parc des Princes on Saturday.
Saturday's other action includes Stade Rennes hosting Lille in the early kickoff. The Breton side will have to cope without Switzerland striker Alexander Frei, who has joined Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund.
Promoted Valenciennes, back in the top flight for the first time since 1993, when the club was engulfed with Olympique Marseille in France's biggest match-fixing scandal, travel to AJ Auxerre.
Last season's runners-up Girondins Bordeaux host Toulouse, hoping the signing of influential midfielder Johan Micoud from Werder Bremen will improve their strike rate.
On Sunday, Marseille travel to promoted Sedan with France's new favourite player, midfielder Franck Ribery, very likely to be included in the squad.