Montpellier v Caen – La Mosson at 19:00 Live at BT Sport

It’s five years since Montpellier stunned European football fans when claiming Ligue 1 honors at odds of 80/1 but their dramatic decline continued in 2016/17 as La Paillade completed their campaign in 15th and only three points clear of the relegation zone.

MHSC suffered 15 defeats in their final 24 fixtures and collected just seven points from a possible 36 on the final straight. That awful run of results saw Jean-Louis Gasset depart earlier this summer with former Nantes manager Michel Der Zakarian taking his place.

Der Zakarian’s a functional pragmatist and his first task will no doubt be to fix a leaking defense. Although Montpellier blasted more goals than any side outside the top-six in Ligue 1 last season, the 66 goals they shipped marked La Paillade out as the third worst backline.

Montpellier’s new approach

With leading goalscorer Steve Mounie moving to the Premier League in the off-season and Ryad Boudebouz rumored to be leaving, the experienced Giovanni Sio is being asked to fill that striking void for their campaign curtain-raiser.

MHSC enjoyed a number of excellent results at their Stade de la Mosson home last term – overcoming PSG, Bordeaux, and Marseille along the way – but we should expect a much more timid outfit under Der Zakarian’s watch.

In his three Ligue 1 seasons in charge of Nantes from 2013/14 to 2015/16, the Armenian’s 114 matches averaged just 2.00 goals per-game and although Montpellier’s games featured an average of 3.00 goals per-game in 2016/17, they did see six of their nine home encounters against bottom-half teams produce no more than two goals.

Such trends suggest the 1.81 on Under 2.5 Goals for Saturday night’s clash with Caen is a little on the large side.

Caen’s struggles

The visitors produced their best league finish (seventh) in 25 years in 2016 but SMC soon regressed, spending several weeks of last season in the bottom-three, only surviving by a solitary point.

With star striker Andy Delort leaving, the Normandy outfit struggled, even if Ivan Santini picked up the attacking burden with aplomb. Only two other Caen players scored more than twice whilst just seven players got on the scoresheet.

Despite those misfiring attacking displays, the club has opted to instead strengthen their defense with the addition of Alexander Dijku and having collected a sole point from their opening 10 away days, they’ll be desperate not to start the campaign on the back foot.

Head coach Patrice Garande is set to embark upon his sixth season in charge of Caen and survival is once again the main target. I’d expect him to try and keep things tight here and considering a huge 13/19 (68%) of the club’s road trips broke the two-goal barrier last term, a low-scoring contest looks likely.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Under 2.5 Goals at 1.81

By @MarkOHaire

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