Struggling Montpellier vow to savour their first taste of European football’s elite

Wenger insisted that Montpellier’s desperate position might make for a good game

A match with the champions of France ought to be difficult but Arsenal’s opponents are in poor form. Montpellier won Ligue 1 last year, for the first time in their history, but this season has not been so successful.

Montpellier are currently 14th in Ligue 1 with just 14 points from their 13 matches. They are not doing much better in the Champions League, having taken just one point from their four games. This may be down to missing Olivier Giroud, sold to Arsenal in the summer. It may just be reversion to the mean. But Arsène Wenger insisted that Montpellier’s desperate position might make for a good game.

“They had a slow start to the season, but they have rediscovered their balance over the last few months,” Wenger said yesterday. “They played very well against PSG. It should be an open game because a draw is not good for either side.”

Montpellier manager Rene Girard admitted that the game had more to do with finding form than a chance for progress.

“It’s a great match for us, a very important game,” Girard said. “But as I have said to the lads, in terms of the Champions League, qualification is over but we still have a slight hope for the Europa League. Beyond that we need to prepare well for the continuation of our league campaign, need to be very solid, get back to our usual form and get higher up the table.”

Montpellier do not have the cachet of their southern rivals Marseilles and so the chance to play in one of Europe’s finest venues is very attractive. “When you have the opportunity to come and play in the Champions League,” said Girard, “all the lads really dream of this, they fought all year to qualify for Champions League, it is a game at the top level – an absolute privilege.”

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