Montpellier collapse ahead of visit by on-form Arsenal

Crowned champions of France last season, Gunners’ opponents are suddenly looking as soft as ‘crepes’

LAST UPDATED AT 10:57 ON Mon 17 Sep 2012

ARSENAL appear to be hitting their stride ahead of tomorrow’s Champions League opener, but the Gunners’ opponents are suffering all sorts of problems.

Tuesday’s encounter against Arsenal should be a red letter day for Montpellier, the first time the small French club have appeared in Europe’s premier tournament.

Last season they were crowned champions of France for the first time in their short history – the Mediterranean club was founded only in 1974 – but the 2012-13 campaign has begun disastrously.

Montpellier currently lie fifth from bottom in Ligue 1 having won just one of their first five games this season. On Friday they slumped to a dispiriting 3-1 defeat to newly promoted Rennes, a result that prompted a verbal broadside from both the manager and the club president.

According to French sports daily L’Equipe, president Louis Nicollin let rip at the players in the dressing room likening them to ‘crêpes’, presumably meaning they’re soft and not very resilient. Reeling from that insult, Montpellier’s finest were then given a public dressing down from manager Rene Girard.

Accusing his players of defending “like juniors” in losing to Rennes, Girard had this warning for Montpellier ahead of the visit of Arsenal. “We need to wake up quickly because if we don't, we're going to fall from a great height on Tuesday."

Nicollin was in a more conciliatory mood today when, in an interview with Montpellier’s local paper Midi Libre, he declared he had faith that his team would soon put things right. “We mustn’t exaggerate [the issue],” he said. “We’re only in the fifth game of the season… all is not negative in our game.”

Manager Arsene Wenger will be obliged to watch Tuesday’s match at the Stade de la Mosson from the stands as he begins a three-match UEFA ban following an incident last year when he exchanged angry words with the referee following his side’s elimination at the hands of  AC Milan.

Even without the presence of the Nutty Professor, however, the Gunners should prove too strong for a club full of crêpes.

Arsenal have never lost on the road to a French club in the Champions League. Even in last year’s close-run thing with Marseille, Aaron Ramsey managed an injury-time goal to give the Gunners a 1-0 win. · 

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