less flashy, Paris SG dreams (still) of the Champions League


Facing Kielce this Saturday (6:00 p.m.) in the semi-finals, the French champion club wants to believe that its 6th participation in the Final Four will be the right one to…

less flashy, Paris SG dreams (still) of the Champions League

less flashy, Paris SG dreams (still) of the Champions League

Facing Kielce this Saturday (6:00 p.m.) in the semi-finals, the French champion club wants to believe that its 6th participation in the Final Four will be the right one to win the European title it is aiming for.

Fewer stars, less glitter, less glamour, but finally a Champions League title? This is what the Parisians are hoping for this weekend, they who are preparing to play their sixth European Final Four in the last eight seasons, for a record so far of four 3rd places and a lost final, in 2017 , painfully, from a goal at the last second against Vardar Skopje (23-24). At the time, this failure only seemed to be a setback for Paris SG, with a budget inflated by Qatari capital and 4-star recruitment every summer. To the point of having counted in its ranks for three seasons the trio Nikola Karabatic-Mikkel Hansen-Sander Sagosen, then considered the three best players in the world.

Today, of this formidable trio, only the first named remains, the Dane having returned to his household in Aalborg while the Norwegian joined Kiel, precisely eliminated by PSG in the quarter-finals. And again, not quite since Karabatic has been suffering from phlebitis in his right leg for a quarter, which will not allow him to be present on the floor in Cologne to challenge Kielce in the semi-finals on Saturday (6:00 p.m.), before a possible final on Sunday against Barcelona or Magdeburg. Within this quartet, previously, Paris SG would have been a favorite alongside the Catalan ogre. But not anymore, with a less flashy squad and detrimental injuries – Nikola Krabatic and Elohim Prandi, although the latter could play a few minutes in the semis. So much so that to have managed to invite itself to the table of the big ones would almost already sound like a victory for this more down to earth PSG.

No one saw Paris Saint-Germain in this situation, really, and I understand them.

Elohim Prandi

“No one saw Paris Saint-Germain in this situation, really, and I understand them“, admitted, before his fracture in the left hand, Elohim Prandi. “We lost some really big things. But when I talk to my mother (Mézuela Servier, ex-international in the 1990s), from the start, she told me that it will take, that it is perhaps this year, when we are least expected that we will do it. We’ll see, everything in its time.Indeed, by losing executives such as Mikkel Hansen, Nedim Remili, Benoit Kounkoud, Vincent Gérard and Yann Genty last summer, it seemed difficult to see PSG maintain such a high level, at the end of a historic season in French Championship with 30 wins in as many matches played. “We had a lot of people who left in the off-season, recalls Luka Karabatic. It was necessary to rework, to put back the bases. It was difficult. Obviously, today, now that we are there, we want more. We will try to find more.»

In Starligue, despite three defeats, Paris SG managed to retain their crown, with a 10th national title since the arrival of Qatar Sports Investment (QSI) – the 9th in a row. But in the Coupe de France, the fall was dizzying in the semi-final against Montpellier (20-33). A huge slap which, paradoxically, did the Parisians good according to Prandi: “She hurt. I do not remember Paris Saint-Germain having taken such a plate. The surge of pride was significant. Psychologically, he created something. Since then, we have focused a lot on defense. We know that in attack, we are very very strong but defensively, we were not fighting enough, we lacked physical impact. Since then, we’ve been flawless, we’ve seen a change in attitude, another face of the team.“And the back of the France team to add:”Paris Saint-Germain is not dead. The team shows that it has a big character, heart and that it knows where it wants to go.»

With a reduced budget of 2.5 million euros, which explains this less sparkling recruitment and this shortened bench depth, Paris SG is still among the haves of the Old Continent, without being one of the wealthiest. Which is not very serious according to Luc Steins, his formidable pocket center half (1.73m): “That doesn’t prevent you from playing handball well. Besides, I don’t think it changes anything on the pitch for us. Of course, we lost some important players, but there are also players who came to strengthen us. Then it might take a little longer than with a group that’s been together longer. But for us, it doesn’t change much. Simply, the challenge is probably a little bigger than usual.»

In terms of play, PSG can always rely on a very efficient attack around their maestro Steins, with a Dainis Kristopans running at full speed from the height of his 2.13m and wingers (Solé, Balaguer, Grébille) performing , even if the probable absence of Prandi, who had taken on a new dimension this season, should prove to be a serious handicap. And defensively, after a tentative first half of the season in this regard, the troops led by Raul Gonzalez – who extended his contract as a coach until 2025, he who arrived in 2018 – have increased in strength in recent weeks. around the Luka Karabatic-Henrik Toft Hansen tandem and goalkeepers Jannick Green and Andreas Palicka, who are particularly complementary. Which made Thierry Omeyer, the general manager of PSG, say: “Frankly, the team this year is very balanced. The forces are spread all over the place. Rather than having one or two star players, we have players who are able to bring great collective synergy to all positions. And then what is a star player, who is or is not?»

So can this Parisian team win the Grail after which it has been chasing for so many seasons, at the very moment when, on paper, it seems the least well armed? The paradox would be amusing, in any case. Start of response this Saturday against the Poles of Kielce, where in particular two former residents of Coubertin evolve: Benoit Kounkoud and Dylan Nahi. “All teams evolve, change, but the most important thing is that despite the changes, the team keeps the same level“, emphasizes Raul Gonzalez. “The club are looking to continue like this, making decisions, knowing roughly which players are going to leave, and having a lot of contact with players who could come for next season.“.

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