Arsenal travel to France to take on Ligue 1's defending champions Montpellier in the first of their group stage encounters in the UEFA Champions League. The Gunners, who are making their 15th consecutive appearance in the Europe's elite competition, will be up against a team who have a come a long way from languishing in the second division two seasons back to winning the French top flight.
This is the first Champions League appearance for Montpellier and Arsenal will be looking to use their experience in Europe to gain superiority at the Stade de la Mosson. Assistant coach Steve Bould will be in charge of the Gunners from the touchline as Arsene Wenger serves the first of a three-game ban awarded to him by UEFA after his touchline rant against AC Milan in last year's competition.
Montpellier (FRA) v Arsenal (ENG) at Stade de la Mosson
7:45 pm BST (6:45 pm GMT)
Where to Watch
Live coverage will be available, from 7 pm BST onwards, on Sky Sports 2 and Sky Sports 2 HD. Live text updates and commentary will be available on UEFA's MatchCentre.
Montpellier have had a lacklustre start to their domestic campaign having lost three of their opening five matches in the league. The main issue for La Paillade is that striker Emanuel Herrera, who was brought in as a replacement for Olivier Giroud who joined Arsenal in the summer, has failed to hit the ground running resulting in a lack of cutting edge in front of goal. Meanwhile, Giroud, who scored 21 league goals for Montpellier last season, is having problems of his own with the Gunners, having failed to score in his first four matches.
Wenger has dismissed suggestions that the Montpellier game will be a stroll in the park for the north Londoners, urging his players to not judge the opponents by their domestic form. Montpellier's start to the campaign is reminiscent of Arsenal's last season, where they failed to win any of their first three matches, which included an 8-2 thumping at Old Trafford, but beat German champions Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League and went on to top their group and qualify for the knockout stages.
Wenger is further appreciative of the French club, who came up with such an impressive performance to win Ligue 1, after struggling at the bottom of the second division a few seasons back. The club's credentials are accentuated by the fact that they warded off competition from the likes of PSG, who are fast becoming a heavyweight in European football, owing to the amount of investment they made in the transfer market.
Arsenal, on the other hand, are full of confidence having thrashed Southampton 6-1 at the weekend. The defence, which has been a stumbling block to their ascendency in recent years, looks rock solid this time - something which has been attributed to the influence of assistant coach and former Gunner Bould. The centre-back, who won three league trophies during his time at north London, was part of the famous Arsenal defence, which also comprised Lee Dixon, Tony Adams and Nigel Winterburn.
Bould, since his takeover from Pat Rice, has infused discipline into the squad and the team, who failed to close down attacks and conceded goals on the counter during previous seasons, now attack and defend as a unit. Though it has only been four games into the season, the results speak for themselves. Arsenal have conceded only a solitary goal so far and that too was due to a moment of madness by goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. The Gunners will be looking to continue their current defensive run, when they visit the Stade de la Mosson.
Montpellier: Manager Rene Girard welcomes back captain Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa to the squad, after resting the France international against newly promoted side Reims at the weekend. Midfielder Remy Cabella also makes his way back into the team. Montpellier are without any major injury concerns and the only factor restricting Girard is the slump in form that has affected the team's performance at the start of the season. Attacker Younis Belhanda, who has been central to Montpellier's title winning campaign alongside Giroud, has been a shadow of his original self so far this term, being wasteful in possession and failing to provide striker Herrera with opportunities. Girard will be hoping that a "reunion" with Giroud will calm down nerves and give his team an added impetus to get the better of Arsenal.
Arsenal: The Gunners are in for a tough two weeks in their season as the visit to Montpellier will be followed by a trip to the Premier League champions Manchester City next week and then European Champions Chelsea visit them on 29 September, with a Capital One Cup game in between. These four games can shape Arsenal's season but Wenger has been offset by injuries to star players from the beginning of the campaign.
Jack Wilshere, BacarySagna, Tomas Rosicky and Emmanuel Frimpong remain sidelined and would not be available for selection in the next few matches. Arsenal will also be without No 1 Szczesny, who aggravated an injury against Southampton and will be replaced by Vito Mannone. Abou Diaby has been declared fit and has been included in the match squad. Laurent Koscielny is also expected to get his first start for the season, with Per Mertesacker being given a deserved break. Giroud, who was on the bench against the Saints, is set to start against his former employers. Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski, the two new signings who have been highly impressive so far will surely make the starting line-up, while the last spot in the attacking quartet will go to either youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Gervinho, who netted a brace in the last game.
Montpellier (4-5-1): Jourden; Bocaly, Yanga-Mbiwa, Hilton, Bedimo; Utaka, Cabella, Belhanda, Estrada, Ait-Fana; Herrera
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Mannone; Jenkinson, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Arteta, Diaby; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Podolski; Giroud
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