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Know Arsenal's rivals in Champions League Group B

Know Arsenal's rivals in Champions League Group B


Arsenal who were seeded in Pot 1 have been drawn in Group B in the Champions League. takes a look at their opponents and what they can expect from them..

By Brendon Netto

Montpellier Herault FC

Performance in last year's tournament: Finished 14th in Ligue 1, did not qualify.

How they qualified this year: Won Ligue 1 to earn automatic qualification.

The Manager

Rene Girard is one of the most underrated coaches in European fooball. He has always been one to favour the promotion and development of youth as he coached the France U-16, U-19 and U-21 teams. Girard took charge of Montpellier in 2009 and produced one of the biggest shocks in European football last season by leading them to the Ligue 1 title, beating the financial muscle of Paris Saint-Germain along the way.

Formation and Tactics


Olivier Giroud was in prolific form for Montpellier last season and following his departure to Arsenal, the French side must look for a new source of goals. Gaetan Charbonnier and Emanuel Herrera have been signed to boost the striking department and the latter appears to be the preferred choice in the first team. The experienced duo of John Utaka and Souleymane Camara will offer the Argentine support in attack from the wide areas. Younes Belhanda will be the creative force from an attacking midfield position but it's down the flanks where Montpellier are most dangerous. They like to attack with width as their full-backs regularly stride forward in support of the wingers. Jamel Saihi plays the role of anchor man in midfield in a 4-3-3 formation. Their defence has been weak during the start of the domestic season as they only registered one win from their opening four games. They were cruelly made to pay for their defensive lapses against Lorient when they were leading 1-0 until the 90th minute after which they conceded twice before the full time whistle. However, retaining the services of Yanga-Mbiwa in defence after a summer of transfer speculation remains an important victory if they are to compete in the Champions League.


The French club are making their first appearance in the Champions League and they would be glad just to progress through to the knockout round. Having being drawn in a group that also features Arsenal and FC Schalke, their relatively shallow squad will be stretched to the limit if they are determined to field strong teams in Europe as well as domestically. Olympiacos also have far more experience in the Champions League than the French champions. 

  Man to Watch - Younes Belhanda

Younes Belhanda was outstanding for Montpellier last season and attracted the attention of several European giants during the transfer window. From 31 appearances last year, the 22-year old Morocco international scored 13 times and provided 5 assists. Belhanda is blessed with supreme technique and vision while his decision-making is what makes him so effective in the final third. Girard has even compared his young prodigy to Robert Pires. The youngster will relish the opportunity to shine against the European elite.


Performance in last year's tournament: Eliminated after finishing 3rd in Group F.

How they qualified this year: Won the Greek Superleague to gain automatic qualification.

The Manager

On June 5th 2012, Leonardo Jardim replaced Ernesto Valverde as manager of Olympiacos as the latter left the club for family reasons after winning the league title consecutively in his two seasons in charge. In that respect, Jardim has a lot to live up to but the Portuguese manager is considered to be a very bright tactician as well. He's a young manager who has enjoyed impressive spells in Portugal having begun in the third division. After winning promotion to higher divisions with two separate clubs, he took charge of S.C. Braga last season and finished 3rd in the top division, during which he set a record of 15 consecutive league wins. The 38-year old will relish the opportunity to pit his wits against the likes of Arsene Wenger in club football's finest competition.  

Formation and Tactics


Olympiacos use a 4-2-3-1 formation with Rafik Djebbour playing as the lone striker. Francois Modesto and Giannis Maniatis sit deep in midfield while the trio of Ariel Ibagaza, Paulo Machado and Djamel Abdoun support the forward. Ibagaza is a creative player and often drifts inside to get involved and pick out a pass. The full-backs often make runs on the outside to support the attack. The formation is an attacking one and has seen the Greek side score six times in their opening two games in the league having won both. 


Olympiakos will be looking to advance from the group stages but with Arsenal, Schalke and French Champions Montpellier also vying to do the same, a spot in the Europa league could be deemed acceptable as well.

  Man to Watch - Rafik Djebbour

Rafik Djebbour scored 16 goals for Olympiacos last season but the team will now rely on him much more following the departure of Kevin Mirallas. A return of 26 goals from 47 appearances for the Greek champions so far speaks volumes of his natuaral goal scoring ability. With Mirallas gone, this could be the perfect time for Djebbour to step into the spotlight.

FC Schalke 04

Performance in last year's tournament: Finished 14th in the Bundesliga, did not qualify.

How they qualified this year:  Finished 3rd in the Bundesliga to gain automatic qualification.

The Manager

Huub Stevens joined FC Schalke on 27th September 2011 for his second spell at the club. He guided the team to a third place finish last season after they disappointingly came in 14th in the previous campaign. Stevens had resided over one of the most successful periods in the club's history during his last term with them when they won German Cup twice, were runners-up in the Bundesliga and beat Inter Milan to lift the UEFA Cup. His return to the Royal Blues was met with skepticism owing to the defensive style he employed during his last tenure with the club but performances and a good tally of goals have put those doubts to bed.

Formation and Tactics


Schalke have boosted their options in the attacking third this season by signing Ibrahim Afellay on loan from Barcelona and adding Barnetta to their ranks as well. The Dutchman is likely to operate on the left wing in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Lewis Holtby will assume the number 10 role behind star striker, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar while Julian Draxler moves to the right. With Jermaine Jones and the newly signed Roman Neustradter marshalling the centre of midfield, it frees up the wingers and attacking midfielder to support Huntelaar. 


The Royal Blues should be aiming to get to the knockout stages and look to advance even further depending on the opposition they draw. Qualifying past the group stages must be the primary target.

  Man to Watch - Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar certainly is the man to watch as far as defenders are concerned, especially when he's lurking in and around the penalty area. The man is a goal scoring machine and is enjoying a fine period in his career. He racked up an incredible tally of 48 goals in 47 appearances for Schalke last season and has gotten off to a good start to this one as well. Louis van Gaal once stated, "In the penalty area, he (Huntelaar) is the best player in the world, bar none." The striker has great technique and impeccable finishing and is a potent threat to even the best defenders in the world.

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