Only pride to play for
Montpellier Hérault SC have nothing but pride left to play for as they entertain Schalke 04 at the Stade de la Mosson on Tuesday in their final European outing of the season.
UEFA Champions League Group B Matchday 6
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
René Girard's men have managed just a single point so far in their debut Champions League campaign, and a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal in London two weeks ago ensured that they will finish bottom of Group B. Five points adrift of Olympiacos, they cannot even stop the Greeks from taking third place and the consolation Europa League berth.
The one point that Montpellier have taken came from a battling 2-2 draw against Schalke in Germany at the start of October, earned despite playing much of the game with ten men after the sending-off of Garry Bocaly. However, the Ligue 1 champions come into the return meeting with the Bundesliga giants on the back of a 1-0 loss at Lyon on Saturday, and are again weakened by the absence of first-choice goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren due to a rib injury, and of his regular back-up Laurent Pionnier due to a thigh problem. The 21-year-old Jonathan Ligali will therefore start in goal for a second straight game.
Girard: 'Still a big game'
"There is nothing at stake for us, but it is a Champions League game and we must play it," said Girard, who would settle for a repeat of his team's showing in the reverse fixture. "We were good over there and if we can win here it would be good.
"I am frustrated because I know that it is only the small things that have let us down. I have big regrets and leaving this competition with a defeat would be disappointing. We could have done better, but this is still a big game. The most important thing at stake is our honour."
Stevens praises Montpellier
Schalke travel to the south of France having already sealed their place in the knockout stages, but they know that a win will guarantee them top spot ahead of Arsenal, who are in action away to Olympiacos. The Royal Blues, who have failed to win any of their last four Bundesliga outings, are without a host of players, including Marco Höger, Jefferson Farfan and on-loan Barcelona winger Ibrahim Afellay. Their Dutch coach Huub Stevens wants to ensure that his side finish top of the group, but he has plenty of respect for Montpellier.
"We are here to win the game and the group," he said. "Montpellier are a good footballing side, very technical, in line with French footballing tradition. They proved their qualities when they played us in Germany. To be up to the level of the other teams in the group, they just lacked a bit of experience."
Montpellier: Ligali; Congré, Yanga-Mbiwa (c), Hilton, El-Kaoutari; Stambouli, Estrada; Cabella, Belhanda, Utaka; Charbonnier
Schalke 04: Hildebrand; Uchida, Höwedes (c), Metzelder, Fuchs; Neustädter, Kolasinac; Obasi, Holtby, Draxler; Huntelaar