Montpellier - Olympiakos Preview: Both teams look to end European slump
Nether side have started their European campaigns on top form this season, but will be hoping to take a giant step towards qualification with victory on Wednesday
By Livio Caferoglu
Jeunechamp, Congre, Hilton, Bedimo
Camara, Belhanda, Cabella
Torosidis, Manolas, Contreras, Holebas
Abdoun, Fuster, Mitroglou
Montpellier were dealt a huge blow with the news that Karim Ait-Fana - the opening goalscorer in the 2-2 draw with Schalke a fortnight ago - will be out for six months after the winger injured his right knee in training on October 11. Additionally, defender Garry Bocaly must serve a one-game ban following his red card against the Germans, along with coach Rene Girard.
However, experienced midfielder Romain Pitau is back after seeing out his suspension from the 2010-11 Europa League third qualifying round against Hungarian side Gyori ETO. Elsewhere, expect Emanuel Herrera and Remy Cabella to come into the fold. The pair were late substitutions in Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Rennes.
Meanwhile for Olympiakos, attacking midfielder Ariel Ibagaza is ruled out due to a groin injury, while Tassos Papazoglou's dislocated left shoulder means he will also miss the clash with the French champions. Yet two changes from their Super League success against Xanthi at the weekend should see Vasilis Torosidis and Kostas Mitroglou return to the side.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- This is the first time Montpellier will be facing Greek opposition.
- La Paillade have accumulated seven yellow cards so far, the joint highest total in the groups.
- In contrast to their opponents' seven-game winning run, MHSC have won just two of their nine Ligue 1 matches this season.
- Meanwhile Olympiakos have lost eight out of 12 games in France, recording just three victories.
- The Greeks have scored 98 goals in the Champions League group stage to the final.
- Djamel Abdoun, Paulo Machado, Francois Modesto and Rafik Djebbour all have experience of playing in France.
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Top 3 Predictions
Montpellier HSC 2-1 Olympiakos Piraeus
- 15.39 %
Montpellier HSC 1-1 Olympiakos Piraeus
- 13.74 %
Montpellier HSC 1-0 Olympiakos Piraeus
- 11.54 %
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||Nov 6, 2012||Olympiakos Piraeus 3 - Montpellier HSC 1|
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||Oct 24, 2012||Montpellier HSC 1 - Olympiakos Piraeus 2|
|Dec 8, 2013||Toulouse FC 1 - Montpellier HSC 1||FRA1|
|Dec 4, 2013||Montpellier HSC 0 - FC Lorient 2||FRA1|
|Nov 29, 2013||Olympique de Marseille 2 - Montpellier HSC 0||FRA1|
|Nov 23, 2013||Montpellier HSC 1 - EA Guingamp 1||FRA1|
|Nov 9, 2013||Valenciennes FC 1 - Montpellier HSC 1||FRA1|
|5||Vitorino Hilton da Silva||Defender|
|10||Rafik Zoheir Djebbour||Striker|
Without Ait-Fani to complement him and Olivier Giroud to support him, all eyes will be on the Moroccan to provide the creativity for Montpellier. Along with Souleymane Camara, the attacking midfielder has carried the team this season, but it remains to be seen how much longer he can weigh the hopes of his side on his back. Still, a positive performance against Olympiakos would be a welcome boost to his and MHSC's morale.
|Rafik Zoheir Djebbour|
A former Auxerre youth product, Djebbour is currently his club's top scorer this season with eight goals in just seven appearances, and his last-minute winner against Xanthi at the weekend only further highlighted his importance to the Olympiakos cause, as Kevin Mirallas' summer departure has meant his form in front of the net is more crucial than ever to Greek hopes at home and abroad.
Montpellier may have the better continental record, albeit marginally, but Olympiakos' far greater strength in depth, coupled with their dominant domestic form should see them ruin their opponents' baptism of fire against a Greek outfit and make it a second straight win over a team from French seas.