Clermont, who won their first French Top 14 final at the 11th attempt last season, tackle Perpignan, the team they defeated to clinch that elusive crown, in Friday's season opener.
The two clash after a summer which has seen little transfer action while the season will also see the fewest number of foreign players involved than in previous campaigns.
There have been some interesting comings and goings, notably regarding ambitious outfit Toulon who are bidding to improve on their somewhat controversial semi-final loss to Clermont.
His proven try-scoring ability will first be put to the test at home to Bayonne, who have rebuilt since they were saved from relegation only by Montauban's failure to provide sufficient financial guarantees.
Fellow cash-rich club Racing-Metro, who reached the play-offs in their first campaign back in the elite, have also made what should be a good investment in Argentina's 'magic man' Juan Martin Hernandez, who returns from South Africa to former club Stade Francais' bitter city rivals.
Clermont's outstanding scrum-half Morgan Parra, who had a stellar season both in France's Six Nations Grand Slam side and for his club where he assumed kicking duties when Butch James form slipped, is clear they have to set aside what they achieved last season.
"We mustn't forget what we achieved but then we have put it to a corner of our heads and focus on retaining the title. Winning it twice will be even more difficult," said Parra.
Perpignan will be looking to regain the title they won in 2009 and coach Jacques Brunel is keen to put memories of the Clermont defeat behind them.
"This is not about revenge," said Brunel, who has brought back veteran Australian back Manny Edmonds, who enjoyed a successful five-year spell with them from 2002-07.
"The final is lost, it is finished with and over. We begin another season, another story, a marathon that must see us get off to a good start and that it is against Clermont, is even better.
"They are a big team, who beat us not long ago, against whom we want to show our true worth."
Toulouse won the European Cup for the fourth time last season, but coach Guy Noves wants to reclaim the national title they last won in 2008.
However, they go into their home match with promoted Agen devoid of many of their foreign contingent including former All Black scrum-half Byron Kelleher, who is still recovering from a broken jaw suffered playing for the Barbarians.
Toulon take on Bayonne lacking key players such as South African captain Joe van Niekerk and veteran scrum-half Pierre Mignoni while there is a doubt over England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson who has a shoulder injury.
Stade Francais had a terrible season last term but what they hope is the start of a new golden era under highly-regarded Australian coach Michael Cheika begins at home - at the Charlety Stadium as their previous home Jean Bouin Stadium has been demolished - on Friday against Bourgoin.
Stade president Max Guazzini certainly believes that brighter times lie ahead and takes solace from what happened the last time Stade were not involved in the European Cup.
"Michael (Cheika) played for us. He is a personality who doesn't allow for any nonsense," said Guazzini.
"Regarding our not being in the European Cup, the last time we weren't involved was in 2002/2003 and we went on to be champions."
Fixtures (kick-offs in GMT):
Friday: Toulouse v Agen (1645), Brive v Racing-Metro, Biarritz v Montpellier, Toulon v Bayonne, Stade Francais v Bourgoin, Perpignan v Clermont (all 1700)
La Rochelle v Castres
Source: AFP Global Edition