Arsenal host Montpellier in the Champions League on Wednesday (7.45pm GMT, live on Sky Sports) looking for a victory that would put them in a strong position to qualify for the knockout stages.
Schalke currently lead Group B on eight points, with Arsenal in second with seven points, Olympiakos in third on six. Montpellier are already eliminated with just one point to their credit from the four rounds of matches to date.
The Gunners face Olympiakos in the final round and a win against Montpellier would provide them with the comfort of needing only a draw in Piraeus to progress to the last sixteen. If Olympiakos fail to pick up at least a point away to Schalke on Wednesday then a win would see Arsenal through with a match still to spare.
Arsenal had looked certain qualifiers after winning away in Montpellier and then at home to Olympiakos in their first two matches of the group stage, but received a rude awakening in the recent double header with Schalke, gaining just one point from the two fixtures.
Schalke attacked the Gunners with pace, exposing weaknesses that are likely to be further preyed upon should they progress to the knockout rounds. Montpellier do not, however, possess the same offensive weapons as the German side and with little to play for are unlikely to offer a similar amount of resistance on Wednesday.
Arsene Wenger’s men warmed up for the match with a morale-boosting 5-2 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in the North London derby on Saturday. Rocked by their local rivals taking an early lead, Arsenal nevertheless regained control once Spurs were reduced to ten men 18 minutes in. They were able to breach the away defence on a sufficient number of occasions to emerge victorious without truly convincing.
Summer signing Santi Cazorla was the standout Arsenal performer, his awareness, movement, touch and passing ability seeing him at the hub of all of the home side’s best play. The £16 million the Gunners paid to prise him from Malaga looks like very good business indeed.
Olivier Giroud continued his recent purple patch with a fifth goal in his last five matches in all competitions. He is beginning to look more like the striker whose goals propelled Wednesday’s opponents Montpellier to the French league title last season. Aerially dominant and strong in possession, his presence has been greatly missed by his former club.
After scaling the heights last season, Montpellier have endured a rather more sober beginning to 2012/13 and currently sit 14th in Ligue 1 with three wins, five draws and five defeats to their name. They have fared even worse in the Champions League, losing home and away to Olympiakos and home to Arsenal. Their only point came away to Schalke in a 2-2 draw.
Rene Giraud’s side still have an outside chance of securing a place in the Europa League by finishing third in the group, but would need to win both of their remaining matches to do so, something that looks highly unlikely on current form.
Sans Giroud, Montpellier are scoring an average of 1.38 goals per match, well down on last season’s 1.79 per match. New signing Emanuel Herrera, the man expected to fill Giroud’s shoes, has scored just twice thus far and while Souleymane Camara has marginally improved his scoring rate by virtue of getting more starts, he is unlikely to match Giroud’s 21-goal haul.
More surprising is that Montpellier have also performed worse defensively than last season, conceding an average of 1.38 goals per match in comparison to just 0.89 per match during their title winning campaign. The first choice back four is still the same as last season, but for whatever reason are not functionally as effectively as before, keeping just one clean sheet to date.
Arsenal v Montpellier Betting Tips Verdict
Arsenal, then, will face a Montpellier side struggling at both ends of the pitch and with little to play for. Wenger’s charges have not been particularly convincing themselves so far this season but with qualification for the knockout stages in sight should have enough about them to come away victorious.
- Bet on Arsenal -1 on the Asian Handicap @ best odds of 11/21 at Pinnacle. If Arsenal win by just one goal you get your money back, while any win by a greater margin sees the bet come in
- Giroud is currently in excellent form and we fancy him to score against his former side. Therefore, back Olivier Giroud to score at anytime @ Evens with BetVictor or Coral.