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05.09.2017, 15:50
Star-studded Paris want to shine on the podium
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VELUX EHF Champions League countdown: After having to settle for second place last season, Noka Serdarusic’s star-studded side will be determined to take home the trophy for the first time this season.
 

Star-studded Paris want to shine on the podium

On the handball transfer market, it was Sander Sagosen and Rodrigo Corrales who made the move to Paris Saint-Germain, not Neymar and Mbappé. Despite being considerably cheaper transfers than their football counterparts, both players are world-class handball talents.

Experts expect that PSG will at least make it to Cologne, and after having been finalists in 2017, the pressure on them to take home the trophy is huge.

Three questions before the new season:

How is it possible to direct such a substantial number of stars?

Coach Noka Serdarusic has become accustomed to dealing with world class players through coaching Kiel from 1993 until 2008. He is calm and patient, but he can erupt when necessary.

PSG signed him, along with all their top players, so that they could finally conquer the Champions League throne. Indeed, after his predecessor Philippe Gardent had difficulty forming a cohesive team from individual stars, Serdarusic nearly made it to the podium last season.

All parties will have to work harder than ever before in the new season to win the trophy. Besides Serdarusic, centre back Nikola Karabatic also acts as leader for this group of stars, and he is the perfect personality for this job.

Do PSG have any weak points?

PSG have a world class goalkeeper, superb left and right wings, while their back court and defence are exceptional. However, if there is one position where rival sides may be stronger than PSG, it is the line player position.

Another potential weak point is their trouble keeping calm and patient in crucial moments: this was their downfall in the last two outings to the VELUX EHF FINAL4. If a team can manage to stay strong under pressure until the end, they may get the better of PSG. This is how Vardar stole the trophy from them last season.

How will the world class duo fit between the posts?

PSG’s goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer is a strong leader, who does not want to step out of the spotlight. He hungry for saves, success and trophies. No one can stop him, so how will it work now that the up-and-coming Spanish Rodrigo Corrales has joined the side?

The former Barcelona player will need to wait patiently for his chance to shine, and he will be gradually built up for the future. Last season, Omeyer was taught by Serdarusic that no goalkeeper can conserve his form for the full 60 minutes, so he is getting used to the idea of having to make changes.

Under the spotlight: Sander Sagosen

Although he was on the opponents’ side, French fans gave a standing ovation for Sander Sagosen after the Men’s IHF World Championship Final 2017 in Paris. These fans recognised that the Norwegian will join the star-studded squad of PSG for the coming season.

This playmaker was hunted by all the top clubs after the Men’s EHF EURO 2016, where he was Norway’s leading figure, even though he played the semi-final and bronze medal match with a broken hand.

The only question is: Where will the 21-year-old find his place in the PSG back court, when Karabatic, Mikkel Hansen and Daniel Narcisse also have the ambition to play in the centre and left back? Maybe in the end there will be considerable rotation, with four stars vying for two positions.

Self-esteem

In terms of their ambition, there is no difference between PSG handball and PSG football. Both wish to win all trophies, including the Champions League trophy. However, neither team not won this title so far.

In France, PSG can be beaten in a single match, such as when they were defeated by Nantes in the 2017 domestic cup final, however, across the whole season, they never let the league trophy from their grasp.

In the Champions League this season, like last season, their group is extremely tough, with four former winners (KS Vive Tauron Kielce, SG Flensburg-Handewitt, THW Kiel, and RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko) and another strong FINAL4 hopeful (Telekom Veszprém HC).

“We want to go to Cologne, but we know how steep and tough the way there is,” said manager Bruno Martini, adding:

“We will fight to top the group in the end to have the best possible position for the knock-out stage. But we all know this this is the hardest possible group, like last year.”

Team captain Daniel Narcisse is aiming for the top of the group too:

“When you see the quality of our opponents, you see that a lot of work is ahead to fulfil our goals.”

Fun fact

Goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer could be considered the most successful handball player in history. The 40-year-old is five-time world champion, three-time EHF EURO champion, two-time Olympic champion and four-time Champions League winner.

In 2009, he was awarded World Player of the Year, and he was the third goalkeeper ever to receive this accolade after Arpad Sterbik and Henning Fritz. Right after winning his fifth world title in 2017, his second on home ground, Omeyer announced his retirement from the national team.

 

What the numbers say

No other team has more world class players in their squad. They have four IHF World Players of the Year: Omeyer, Narcisse, Hansen (2 awards) and Karabatic (3). Besides Karabatic, Hansen and Uwe Gensheimer have also been top-scorers of the EHF Champions League.

Even the bench is star-studded: Head coach Noka Serdarusic has won more than 30 titles in his career, including the Champions League (which he won in 2007 with Kiel). Assistant coach Staffan Olsson is even a four-time EURO winner, double world champion, and four-time Olympic semi-finalist (with Sweden).

 

Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA)

Qualification for the 2017/2018 VELUX EHF Champions League season: French champions

Newcomers: Sander Sagosen (Aalborg Handball), Rodrigo Corrales (Orlen Wisla Plock)

Left the club: William Accambray (Veszprem), Xavier Barachet (Saint-Raphaël), Dylan Garain (Dunkerque), Jeffrey M’tima (Dunkerque), Gorazd Skof (Erlangen)

Coach: Noka Serdarusic (since 2015)

Team captain: Daniel Narcisse

 

VELUX EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2017/18 season): 6

Finalist (1): 2016/17

Semi-Final (1): 2015/16 (third ranked at FINAL4)

Quarter-final (2): 2013/14, 2014/15

Last 16 (1): 2005/06

 

Other EC records:

EHF Cup:

Quarter-finalist 2006/07, Last 16 2003/04

 

French League: 4 titles (2012/13, 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17)

French Cup: 3 titles (2006/2007, 2013/2014, 2014/2015)

French League Cup winner: 2016/17


TEXT: Björn Pazen/kc
 
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