A trip to Cologne is on PSG’s mind
Last season, Paris Saint-Germain HB missed the EHF FINAL4 Men for the first time since 2018/19. After a tough group phase, where the French side faced Barça, Lomza Industria Kielce and Telekom Veszprém, PSG fell short by just one goal against 2019/20 champions THW Kiel in the quarter-finals.
While the squad had remained exactly the same last summer, coach Raul Gonzalez now faces a massive rebuilding job before the Machineseeker EHF Champions League 2022/23 season begins after four key players left the club in June.
- PSG will celebrate their 10th consecutive season in the Machineseeker EHF Champions League – their 11th overall
- they have reached the EHF FINAL4 five times, but their only appearance in the final came in 2017
- in the 2021/22 season, Paris were defeated by THW Kiel 63:62 on aggregate in the quarter-finals
- important players like Nedim Remili, Benoit Kounkoud (both Kielce), Mikkel Hansen (Aalborg) and Vincent Gerard (Saint-Raphaël) left the club in the summer
- major signings include goalkeepers Andreas Palicka and Jannick Green, as well as EHF EURO 2018 champion David Balaguer
Most important question: How have PSG reacted to losing so many important players?
Mikkel Hansen, Nedim Remili and Vincent Gerard – the list of key players who left Paris in the summer is long and worth its weight in gold. In total, five players chose to pursue their careers elsewhere. After the summer of 2021, when only Dylan Nahi made the move to Kielce, that came as a shock to PSG.
This 2022/23 season is clearly the start of a new cycle for the French side, as two new goalkeepers and three new court players have moved to the capital city of France. Some very experienced players, such as the Scandinavian goalkeeping duo of Andreas Palicka and Jannick Green, feature among PSG's new names.
On the court, the new recruits will surely need a little bit more time to adapt. If David Balaguer is used to playing in the biggest games, either with HBC Nantes or Spain, promising left back Yoann Gibelin is yet to play an EHF Champions League game in his career.
As Dominik Mathe will not recover from his knee injury before the end of the year, it clearly appears that we will have to wait to know more about what this PSG team is about.
Under the spotlight: Nikola Karabatic
At 38, Nikola Karabatic is as hungry as ever as he starts his 22nd professional season. Even though he has lifted the EHF Champions League trophy three times with three different clubs, he still has to do it with PSG. While it appears clear that he will end his career with PSG, this season might be one of his last opportunities to do it.
His role this season will be a key one, as Karabatic will be the leader of a rejuvenated back court. His experience will be important to integrate the new recruits as quickly as possible, giving PSG the possibility of finally achieving their goal in Cologne.
How they rate themselves
Compared to last season, when they faced Barça, Lomza Industria Kielce, Telekom Veszprém and SG Flensburg-Handewitt in the group phase, PSG seem to have drawn a group where they could find their way to the top spot.
"It is up to us to negotiate the group stage better this year to ensure a direct qualification for the quarter-finals with the second leg at home, in Coubertin, with our fans," said captain Luka Karabatic.
With Porto, GOG, Veszprém and a revamped Dinamo Bucuresti, the competition will still be tough in group A for the Parisian side to make it directly to the quarter-finals. And even though the names of PSG's opponents might not sound as familiar to the casual fan, Luka Karabatic believes "this promises us great battles to come".
Did you know?
Starting his fifth season on PSG's bench, Raul Gonzalez is now the longest-serving coach of the club in the last 20 years.
After winning the Champions League with Vardar in 2017, he still has to guide the French side to the same success, but if longevity is the key to victory, the Spanish coach is clearly building up to something good with PSG.
What the numbers say
In the last two seasons, only three teams have prevented Paris Saint-Germain from scoring 30 goals or more in a Champions League game: Barça, Flensburg and Porto. That clearly shows what the strong point of the French side is. Put simply: every PSG game is a delight for the handball fan.
This strength came from speed but also players knowing each other inside out after playing next to one another for years. With the arrival of new players, a lot of things have been rebuilt this summer, but hopefully the team will not lose its good habits.
Newcomers and departures
Newcomers: Dominik Mathe (Elverum Handball), Jannick Green (SC Magdeburg), Andreas Palicka (Rhein-Neckar Löwen / Redbergslids IK), Yohann Gibelin (US Créteil HB), David Balaguer (HBC Nantes)
Departures: Nedim Remili (Lomza Industria Kielce), Benoit Kounkoud (Lomza Industria Kielce), Yann Genty (Limoges), Vincent Gerard (Saint-Raphaël Var Handball), Mikkel Hansen (Aalborg Håndbold)
EHF Champions League:
Participations (including 2022/23 season): 11
Runners-up (1): 2016/17
Semi-finals (4): 2020/21, 2019/20, 2017/18, 2015/16
Quarter-finals (4): 2021/22, 2018/19, 2014/15, 2013/14
Last 16 (1): 2005/06
French League: 9 titles (2013, 2015-22)
French Cup: 6 titles (2007, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2021, 2022)
French League Cup: 3 titles (2017-19)