The Ligue 1 champions start their first ever Champions League campaign by playing host to Arsenal, a team that bought top scorer Olivier Giroud off them in the summer transfer window. Neither side have been too impressive at the start of the season, but Arsenal do appear to be in better form at the moment.
Three defeats in four games
Montpellier shocked everyone by piping star-studded Paris Saint-Germain to the Ligue 1 title, but they have been unable to repeat such impressive showings this term. The departure of Olivier Giroud is clearly affecting the team seeing they failed to score more than one goal in four of five league games, but defensive showings seem to be even bigger problem. The back line is conceding way too many goals at the moment, with 3-1 defeat to newly-promoted Reims a major cause for concern. Even the players themselves look to have lost confidence in their own abilities, with key player Younes Belhanda admitting MHSC would concede eight goals against Arsenal if they continued playing like this. Add to that the lack of European experience and poor atmosphere in the team and you will understand why I am tempted to back the Gunners to bring all three points back to London.
Forward John Utaka misses out through injury, but Jamel Saihi returns to the side. Souleymane Camara is expected to take Utaka’s place in the starting 11.
Arsenal back in business
Many football pundits were quick to criticize Arsene Wenger for his transfer dealings this summer, but team’s recent showings prove he has done an excellent job considering the circumstances. The Frenchman sold two unsettled players who were not interested in extending their deals for a huge profit, while signing several very talented players on the other hand. The absence of Robin van Persie proved to be a problem at the start of the season, with team’s profligacy in front of goal the main reason for goalless draws against Sunderland and Stoke, but 2-0 win over Liverpool and 6-1 hammering of Southampton hint the Gunners are back to their best. Back to back victories have certainly done wonders for the players’ confidence before the start of the Champions League campaign, and with Arsenal’s clear technical superiority over the opponents, the Gunners look a good bet to win in France.
Wojciech Szczesny is set to continue between the sticks despite the poor showing against Southampton, while Abou Diaby could return from a hip problem.
Montpellier are clearly at a very bad place at the moment and they don’t look like the team that won the Ligue 1 title last term. With the French club also lacking experience at European level, they should become an easy prey for what is clearly an improving Arsenal side.
Our prediction: Away win
Odds: 2.25 (5/4)
Bookmaker: Stan James