So, it’s been sixteen years and two days since the English newspapers were headlined by an unknown French manager who was appointed as Arsenal’s manager. Since his appointment, Arsenal have qualified for Champions League for fifteen consecutive years. They hold a record for most consecutive Champions League qualifications just below Real Madrid and Manchester United.
The Gunners are drawn along with Bundesliga club Schalke 04 , Greek giants Olympiacos and French Lique 1 winners Montpellier. Arsenal are expected to top the group. Arsenal kick off their 2012/13 Champions League campaign on Tuesday as they travel to Stade de la Mosson to face French Champions Montpellier.
Montpellier suffered a 3-1 defeat against newly promoted Reims which leaves them 16th in Ligue 1 with only one win from their five games. But Montpellier could not be taken just like that as they outwitted Paris Saint Germain to go on two win the League.
Arsenal are unbeaten in their four Premier League games which includes a 2-0 victory against Liverpool at Anfield and 6-1 victory over Southampton at Emirates Stadium. Arsenal’s shooting accuracy have become sharp in the last two matches as Arsenal’s average shooting accuracy was just 19% in the first two matches. But Arsenal managed a shooting accuracy of more than 50% in the past two games.
Montpellier were just an in and out team in the French League before they were fortunate to find an awesome manager in Rene Girard. John Utaka, Younes Belhanda and Yapou Manga-Mbwia are the players to watch out for in the French side while Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Gervinho are expected to fire for the Gunners. Questions circulate around Olivier Giroud as the former Montpellier has failed to score in the opening four matches of the League. It would not be tough for a player to score on the French soil who netted 21 times in his final season for Montpellier.
Olivier Giroud admits it will be “special” to face his former club Montpellier on Tuesday night.
To return to Montpellier is very special because I spent two very happy years there which were fantastic.
Montpellier is a family club and I left a lot of friends behind – everybody who works at the club and the players. I want to score in every match, but if I score against Montpellier I will keep the celebration small. That is normal for anybody, for the club and Montpellier fans. It will be out of my respect to my old club.
I spent a beautiful, wonderful season there last year when we were champions and won the title. It was a fantastic achievement for Montpellier to win the French championship and there was a lot of emotion when we won.
Montpellier Probables : Jourden
Bocaly, Yanga-Mbiwa, Hilton, Bedimo
Utaka, Cabella, Belhanda, Estrada, Ait-Fana
Arsenal Probables :
Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs
Arteta, Diaby, Cazorla
Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud, Podolski.
Montpellier coach Rene Girard will welcome back both Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Remy Cabella after resting them at the weekend during their defeat to newly-promoted Stade Reims.
There are still concerns over Olivier Giroud’s replacement in the side,though, with Emmanuel Herrera struggling for form which has contributed to their slow start to the season.
Arsene Wenger will have to monitor whether Theo Walcott has recovered fully from the effects of a virus and if Abou Diaby has got over his small muscle injury sustained on international duty with France. Elsewhere, Jack Wilshere, Bacary Sagna, Tomas Rosicky, Lukasz Fabianski and Emmanuel Frimpong are set to miss the trip.
Things You Must Know Before The Clash
* Olivier Giroud was the club’s top goalscorer last season with 21 League goals as he spearheaded their attack on their way to the Ligue 1 title.
* This is the club’s first ever game in the Champions League.
* They have scored 49 goals in UEFA competitions in the past.
* Arsenal have now qualified for the Champions League group stages for 15 seasons in a row.
* This is the first time that the two clubs have ever met in a competitive fixture.
* Arsene Wenger’s side have a good record against French clubs in European competition, having won five and drawn three in the past.
* However, they have won just two of their last 12 games away in Europe, losing eight of those fixtures.
Montpellier 0-3 Arsenal. I predict Olivier Giroud to score a brace if he starts. Yes, the 6ft 3in guy has the quality.
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