Montpellier vs Arsenal preview
Arsenal will be looking to carry their domestic form onto the European stage as they travel to Montpellier for their opening game of the Champions League on Tuesday.
After two 0-0 draws in the Premiership, the Gunners have finally began to fire on all cylinders and will be full of confidence after their 6-1 demolition of Southampton at the weekend.
Arsene Wenger’s side are in for a much tougher test against the French champions, however, and will be hoping to earn a positive result to help lay the foundations for another assault on the one major trophy to have eluded the Frenchmen during his spell in North London.
While Arsenal are sitting just two points off the top in the Premier League, Montpellier have started their own season in disappointing fashion.
René Girard’s side have only won one of their first five opening games and look a shadow of the team that surprised everyone to win the French Ligue 1 last season.
“What is happening at the moment is a bit depressing,” Girard said.
“We need to wake up quickly because, if we don’t, we are going to be in for a big fall on Tuesday against Arsenal. We are conceding silly goals. It is quite worrying.”
Wojciech Szczesny is out with an ankle injury so Vito Mannone is set to deputise once more, while rookie keeper James Shea has been called up to the squad to act as cover.
Abou Diaby travelled to France after overcoming a minor hip problem and he is likely to start after some eye-catching displays in the first games of the season.
Wenger may also freshen up his line-up so expect Laurent Koscienly to start his first game of the campaign, while Gervinho could keep his place after a man of the match display against Southampton. Olivier Giroud could also start against his own old club.
Montpellier have a relatively clean bill of health but Romain Pitau is suspended after picking up a straight red card in the qualifier against Gyori.
Arsenal: Mannone, Jenkinson, Koscienly, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Diaby, Cazorla, Arteta, Walcott, Gervinho, Giroud.
Montpellier: Jourden, Bocaly, Yanga-Mbiwa, Hilton, Bedimo, Utaka, Cabella, Belhanda, Estrada, Ait-Fana, Herrera.
Arsenal should have too much for a Montpellier side struggling to recapture the form they showed last season.
Santi Cazorla and co are likely to have a field day against the French side if they defend like they did in the poor 3-1 loss to promoted Reims on Friday and are likely to start their Champions League campaign with a narrow win.
Laurence Taylor, Football correspondent