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Arsenal's Giroud makes rapid return to Montpellier

Montpellier Hérault SC's first appearance in the UEFA Champions League gives them a home game against an Arsenal FC side featuring their former striker Olivier Giroud.

Olivier Giroud (centre) celebrates Montpellier's Ligue 1 title success in 2011/12
Olivier Giroud (centre) celebrates Montpellier's Ligue 1 title success in 2011/12 ©AFP/Getty Images

Their first appearance in the UEFA Champions League provides Montpellier Hérault SC with a home game against Arsenal FC and an immediate reunion with their former striker Olivier Giroud.

• The French international, Ligue 1's joint leading scorer last season with 21 goals, joined the London club during the summer and now makes a rapid return.

Previous meetings
• The sides have never met in a competitive fixture while Montpellier, Ligue 1 champions for the first time in 2011/12, have previously faced only one English side. That came in the 1990/91 European Cup Winners' Cup quarter-final when Manchester United FC got the better of them on their way to lifting the trophy. The first leg at Old Trafford ended 1-1 with United winning 2-0 in France.

• Arsenal are making their second visit to France in successive seasons for a UEFA Champions League game. Their 1-0 win at Olympique de Marseille on 19 October 2011, courtesy of an Aaron Ramsey goal in added time, maintained their record of never losing an away fixture against Ligue 1 opposition in UEFA competition. Their eight visits have produced five wins and three draws and they have won their last four fixtures.

• However the Marseille game bucked a trend because Arsenal have been struggling away from home in the competition proper; that win was only their second in 12 away games, eight of those fixtures ending in defeat.

• The Gunners have lost two European finals in Paris: 2-1 to FC Barcelona in the 2006 UEFA Champions League and 2-1 (aet) to Real Zaragoza in the 1995 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.

Match background
• Arsenal, who finished third in the 2011/12 Premier League, are taking part in the UEFA Champions League group stage for the 15th season in a row. For only the second time in seven campaigns they did not have to negotiate a qualifying round.

• For the second season in a row Arsenal departed from last year's tournament in the round of 16. It was the 12th successive time that they had made it through the group and only the second campaign since 2006/07 that they had failed to reach the quarter-finals or better.

• Arsène Wenger's team began last season's competition with a 1-1 draw at Borussia Dortmund, extending their unbeaten run on matchday one to eight games including six wins and two draws. Their last opening-day defeat came on 17 September 2003 when FC Internazionale Milano won 3-0 at Highbury.

• Away from home in the group they followed the Dortmund game by winning at Marseille before going down 3-1 at Olympiacos FC. After losing 4-0 away to Milan in the round of 16 they almost pulled off a stunning fightback but bowed out despite winning the return 3-0.

Team ties
• Wenger faced René Girard twice in Ligue 1 during his time as a defender with RC Strasbourg. Girard played for Nîmes Olympique in 1979 against Wenger, the game ending goalless, and for FC Girondins de Bordeaux in 1980 with Bordeaux winning 2-1.

• Giroud spent two seasons at Montpellier scoring 33 goals in 73 Ligue 1 appearances. He had arrived from Tours FC having also played for Grenoble Foot 38 and FC Istres.

• Bacary Sagna (AJ Auxerre 2004–2007), Laurent Koscielny (EA Guingamp 2004–2007, Tours FC 2007–2009, FC Lorient 2009/10), Sébastien Squillaci (AC Ajaccio 2000–2002, AS Monaco FC 2002–2006, Olympique Lyonnais 2006–2008), Abou Diaby (AJ Auxerre 2004–2005), Gervinho (Le Mans FC 2007–2009, LOSC Lille 2009–2011), Marouane Chamakh (FC Girondins de Bordeaux 2002-2010) and Mikel Arteta (Paris Saint-German FC 2001–2002) have all played in France.

• John Utaka faced Arsenal four times while at Portsmouth FC between 2007 and 2011 and did not appear on the winning side. Portsmouth suffered three defeats, scoring two goals and conceding ten, with the other game ending scoreless.

• Chamakh and Younes Belhanda are team-mates in the Morocco national team.

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