By Rob Kelly
Arsène Wenger has hailed Montpellier’s “miraculous” achievement in winning the Ligue 1 title last season.
Arsenal travel to the Stade de la Mosson for their opening fixture in Champions League Group B, and are favourites to prevail against a club making its debut in the competition.
However, Wenger will not underestimate the French side following their meteoric rise in recent years.
“What they did [last season] is a miracle because three years ago they were in the second division,” he told Arsenal Player.
“They were one point away from relegation to division three in France. Two years later they are champions of France, so what they did is absolutely unbelievable.
“Especially with the competition they faced with Paris Saint-Germain last year when they moved into the final 10 games. I thought that Paris Saint-Germain would take the upper hand but they didn't. They have done something exceptional.
“It is the first time they are champions of France and it is a club of one man - [Louis] Nicollin, the chairman. He took this club when it was in the conference league 25 years ago and made a professional club of it.”
Montpellier have made a slow start to the new Ligue 1 campaign, and Wenger believes this may be a direct consequence of winning the title last season.
“They took everybody by surprise last year. This year, they are champions,” he said. “They are the team to beat. People are maybe a little less urgent and everybody is a bit more cautious against them.
“In the French league, there are many teams of the same level - maybe it’s made it a little bit more difficult for them. They have lost three games out of five [in Ligue 1].
“Under special circumstances they lost some games, because they lost against Lorient after being 1-0 up after 89 minutes. They lost the game in the last two minutes. It affected their confidence a little bit I think.”
Watch the full interview with the boss on Arsenal Player now.