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09.09.2015, 11:20
Paris Saint-Germain firm favourites in the LNH
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FEATURE: Major summer transfers should give one club the edge in France this season

»EHF CL Channel »2015-16 Men's News
»
 

Paris Saint-Germain firm favourites in the LNH

Summer is over and the LNH, the French national league, is set to restart. Gathering at the opening press conference last week, all coaches and club managers had just one name on their lips, or rather three letters: PSG.

The defending champions managed to set the bar even higher by signing the two Karabatic brothers, as well as Noka Serdarusic and top Danish player Henrik Mollgaard, much to their opponents' sadness.

“It's kind of obvious who is the favourite of the league now," says Montpellier HB coach Patrice Canayer. "But it's not like we don't have any good players, anything to propose; trust us to give them the hardest time possible."

Even the league general manager, Etienne Capon, is confident that the competition will be as fascinating as last season, when the title was decided on the final day. "Since PSG has emerged, everybody's been predicting a one-way league, but that didn't happen. Two seasons ago Dunkerque beat them and last season Montpellier were in contention until the last day,” he recalls enthusiastically.

“Let's hope for everybody it turns out this way again this time.”

Stars from all around Europe gathering in France

The French league has proven its international interest by drafting international stars from around Europe. To name a few, Marko Mamic transferred from Swiss side Kadetten Schaffhausen to Dunkerque, while left-handed Spaniards Isaias Guardiola and Joan Saubich signed with Aix.

“These arrivals prove that our league is competitive and is beginning to level with the Bundesliga,” explains Etienne Capon.

“Players from all around Europe are interested in playing in France.”

Coinciding with the increase in talent on the court, attendances are rising as well in the arenas.

“We're very happy to see that when you give fans a proper show, with good players on the court, they're ready to come and pay to see their favourite,” says Philippe Bernat-Salles, who has been president of the league for four years now. "We're aiming to increase our attendance by 5% again this season.”

The potential to reach final events

And the fact that five French clubs are taking part in European competitions can only increase the interest in handball in the country. Paris Saint-Germain looks like a real VELUX EHF FINAL4 contender, while Montpellier reached the competition's Last 16 last season.

“PSG and Montpellier in the Champions League, Nantes, Chambéry and Saint-Raphaël in the EHF Cup, all have the potential to reach their respective competition’s event,” said Bernat-Salles in the press conference this week. Maybe not all of it is true, but such a statement shows how confident everybody is about the level of French handball.

The last time a club reached a European cup final was in 2014 when Montpellier were defeated by Pick Szeged in the EHF Cup Final, while Nantes, Dunkerque and Tremblay gave German sides Rhein-Neckar Löwen, Frisch auf Göppingen and Gummersbach a hard time in 2013, 2012 and 2011. And you have to dig back to 2003 to find a French club winning the Champions League, and it was Montpellier.

"In the last four seasons, a French club reached a European final three times. That is a great record, but a win would crown the French league’s progression over the past few years," concludes Bernat-Salles.


TEXT: Kevin Domas / cor
 
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