Montpellier are below-strength in three positions. Veteran Hilton is injured and summer signing Sio, set to lead the attack, is also ruled out. Playmaker Boudebouz is on the point of leaving the club and will play no part in the game, either. All three are automatic starters.Montpellier finished above Caen in the final standings last season and are confident they can improve on their final position of 15th. For that to happen they should expect to win home games such as this against lower-ranking opponents. Pre-season has given no clear indication as to whether Montpellier can overcome a -0.5 handicap, however. Latest reports suggest the Montpellier will use an attack-minded 4-4-2. They have pace and precision on the wings in Ikone and Mbenza but the absence of a single 10-goal-a-season striker on the squad for this game means there are no strong reasons to expect Montpellier’s attack to contribute to the 2.25 goal line being broken.
Caen are below strength in defense and attack. Da Silva, their best CB, and Karamoh, their highly-rated teenage winger, are absent. This blunts them at both ends of the pitch. Manager Garande can field his strongest side in all other positions. Caen have had a mixed pre-season. Results and performances have been average for a club looking to improve on last season’s 17th place finish. There are no clear reasons at this stage to back or oppose Caen +0.5 on the handicap. Caen would undoubtedly see a draw as a good result. They’re likely to take a defensive or cautious approach. The goal line has been set at 2.25, which is exactly where you’d expect it to be in a game between two sides whose defensive and offensive play was mediocre last season.
Verdict & Prediction
There will be a melancholic edge to the match following the death of club owner and president Louis Nicollin in June. This is the club’s first competitive fixture since he passed away and there will be a tribute to mark the occasion. Without Nicollin – owner and president for more than 40 years – this game marks the start of a new era for Montpellier. It remains to be seen how the institution copes. Away from that issue, Montpellier have had a fairly strong pre-season on and off the pitch. Lots of critics believe the team will be stronger than last season under new manager Der Zakarian. The players and staff will also be determined to win to pay tribute to Nicollin in the best possible manner.
Prediction: Montpellier -0.50 Asian Handicap (same as Montpellier to win)
Odds: 1.82 at Pinnacle