Montpellier coach Rene Girard has called on the club’s fans to turn their stadium into “hell” for Tuesday’s Champions League opener against English powerhouses Arsenal.
Where Montpellier are appearing in Europe’s top club competition for the very first time, Arsenal have reached the group phase for the 15th season in succession and are looking to make the last 16 for the 13th campaign in a row.
Montpellier are also struggling in the league, having lost three and drawn one of their opening five matches, and Girard says the fans at Stade de la Mosson will be key if the underdogs are to give a good account of themselves.
“The one conviction I have is (Tuesday) we’ll have 30,000 supporters and not 30,000 spectators, which will be very important,” he said.
“We’ve had some great moments over the last three years but this season we’ve had some bad moments, and we need the fans to help us turn the stadium into hell for Arsenal.”
He added: “I’m not used to letting myself get beaten. The objective today is to play an exceptional match. You don’t play Arsenal every day, especially not in the Champions League.
“We’ve had a difficult start in the the championship, but as I’ve been telling the players, it’s up to us to turn things around.
“It’s a huge thing to be among the best 32 European teams. I know that everyone is wondering how we’ll avoid getting beaten tomorrow, but I’m sure that we’ll show up.”
Montpellier’s defence, the meanest in Ligue 1 last season (they conceded 34 goals, the same number as Toulouse), has been uncharacteristically porous in their first five league matches, in which they have conceded eight goals.
Girard, though, says the prestige of the Champions League will oblige his players to play with extra focus in their opening Group B assignment.
“Football today means you attack and defend as 11,” he said.
“Our defence hasn’t exactly been the Berlin Wall of late but this match will force every individual in the team to raise their level.”
There will be a familiar face in the Arsenal squad on Tuesday, with Olivier Giroud returning to Montpellier for the first time since he left the club in the summer.
The France striker is still waiting for his first Arsenal goal, and lost his place in the starting XI to Gervinho in Saturday’s 6-1 demolition of Southampton.
Girard said that Giroud’s presence on the team-sheet would not fundamentally alter his side’s approach, but admitted he hopes his former charge receives a favourable reception from the Montpellier fans.
“They have something like 20 internationals so whoever’s on the pitch will be complicated, whether it’s Olivier or another player,” he said.
“Olivier Giroud only left good memories. He worked hard for the club and I think the fans will welcome him as they should. But just a little hello and a little wave, and then we’ll get down to business.”