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3 months ago - 9/1/2019

PSG eager to complete road to Cologne

For the first time since 2015, Paris Saint-Germain HB failed to book their ticket to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 last season.

A 10-goal defeat in Kielce in the first leg of the quarter-final proved just too much to make up in the return in Paris. It was probably the only game PSG faltered last season, but it came at the worst possible moment.

No wonder the French champions are eager to bounce back in 2019/20.

Three questions before the new season:

- Will PSG make it all the way to Cologne this time?

There is no reason why they should not, boasting a team that includes some of the best players on the planet, such as Sander Sagosen and Mikkel Hansen. But, to begin with, they are drawn into a tough Group A, which also includes Barça and SG Flensburg-Handewitt among other high-profile opponents. “We are going to face the big favourite of the competition, Barça, which will be very hard for us. And the other opponents have tremendous qualities,” team manager Bruno Martini says.

- How important is the EHF Champions League in Paris’ project?

Very. “It makes the fans dream, which is essential in what we do,” says Martini. His club has been winning every title in the domestic league since 2014 and aims to take it to the next level and to reign over Europe. Something that PSG haven’t managed to do yet.

- How is Raul Gonzalez going to cope without a proper second right back?

One of the surprises of the summer signings was that PSG, despite losing Luka Stepancic to MOL-Pick Szeged, did not opt for another proper right back. They have signed Vardar’s Dainis Kristopans for 2020, but this season they will try something new, using a winger on the back-court position. Luc Abalo and Benoit Kounkoud will take this role, while Edouard Kempf, who just signed his first pro contract, will be able to help on the wing.

Under the spotlight: Nikola Karabatic

The iconic French back-court player had one of the worst seasons in his career. After undergoing foot surgery in October, he returned in January but then had to cut his season short again to undergo surgery again. Will be back 100 percent fit? It’s one of the biggest questions for PSG ahead of the new season. With Kim Ekdahl du Rietz searching for his best level and Karabatic out injured, the French side sometimes felt short-handed on the back court.

Self-esteem

Like every season PSG have got everything they need to book their ticket to Cologne again. But they won’t look that far yet. “We will try to be as competitive as possible in the competition, while trying to maintain the high standards of the past seasons in the group phase and to be as efficient as possible in the k.o. games” says Martini.

Fun fact

Paris have already signed five players for the summer of 2020, a sign that the roster will change dramatically at this point. While Sander Sagosen has already secured his move to THW Kiel, the Parisian club will welcome Montpellier left wing Mathieu Grébille and French youngster Elohim Prandi among others next July.

What the numbers say

He might have just turned 40, but he remains one of the best specialists on the left wing. Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson’s tank is still full of fuel as he showed with Rhein-Neckar Löwen over the last three seasons. For him, the goal is simple: to win the EHF Champions League again, after lifting the trophy Barça 2015.

 

 

Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA)

Qualification for VELUX EHF Champions League 2019/20: French champions

Newcomers: Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson (Rhein-Neckar Löwen), Kamil Syprzak (Barça), Vincent Gérard (Montpellier HB)

Left the club: Uwe Gensheimer (Rhein-Neckar Löwen), Luka Stepancic (MOL-Pick Szeged), Thierry Omeyer (retired), Robin Dourte (Valladolid, on loan)

Coach: Raul Gonzalez (since 2018)

VELUX EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2019/20 season): 8
Final (1): 2016/17
Semi-final (2): 2015/16, 2017/18
Quarter-final (3): 2013/14, 2014/15, 2018/19
Last 16 (1): 2005/06

Other EC records:

EHF Cup:
Quarter-finalist: 2006/07
Last 16: 2003/04

French league:
6 titles (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)

French cup:
4 titles (2007, 2014, 2015, 2018)

French league cup:
3 titles (2017, 2018, 2019)

Author: Kevin Domas/ew