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why PSG, author of an immaculate season in the league, still can’t do it in the Champions League

They kept the suspense going until the last day. Not on the title of champion of France, won five days from the end, but on their number of victories. By winning against Créteil (38-33) on the last day of the Starligue, Wednesday June 8, PSG Handball achieved what no French club had achieved before: 30 victories in as many league games played on a season. This unprecedented performance does not make us forget the Parisian prize list, still and always virgin of any European title. Franceinfo: sport looks into the reasons for this inconsistency.

For ten years, the club has reigned almost unchallenged in the French championship. On his record, nine titles, including eight consecutive. Hegemony follows the seizure of power by Qatar Sports Investments in 2012, in the wake of the takeover of PSG on the football side. In one year, the former Paris Handball went from 12th place to the title. Dunkirk was the only one able to snatch his crown from him in 2014.

This season, the statistics without appeal: 11 points ahead of their Nantes runner-up, an average of more than 36 goals per game, and a series of 33 consecutive victories still in progress. “Even if it makes sense given their budget and their workforce, in a season, there is always a moment when we are tired, when there are injuriesunderlines Denis Lathoud, former left-back of the France team, to franceinfo: sport. So that’s a hell of a performance.”

Therefore, does PSG know the same fate in football as in handball, with a glass ceiling in the Champions League? Not really: the Parisian club has indeed managed to reach the Final Four, the last four of European competition, “five times in the last seven editions, with a final in 2017”recalls Jérôme Fernandez, former captain of the France team.

Elimination in the quarter-finals this season against reigning German champions THW Kiel was only achieved by a small goal difference in the second leg. “It’s cruel. It’s not played much”deplores the double Olympic champion.

A disappointment, but not a slap in the face for Raúl González’s men. “The room for maneuver in handball is very small. All these teams are equal. It’s the story of a stoppage, a missed penalty… It’s an alignment of the planets that allows you to get the title”summarizes Denis Lathoud.

The format in force since 2009 to determine the winner of the Champions League also has something to do with it. The four semi-finalist clubs meet in Cologne (Germany) to play the last matches of the competition in one weekend. There is therefore no back and forth confrontation, and the posters are drawn by lot a few weeks before the deadline. What put the challenge between the contenders for the European crown and offer a boulevard to the challengers.

Often the underdog wins. Kielce [vainqueur en 2016] and the Vardar Skopje [en 2017] were not favourites”, emphasizes Denis Lathoud. For the former 1995 world champion, these clubs “have nothing to lose, they play liberated unlike the others who are under pressure”.

It is this last parameter that the Parisians “have not yet managed to manage. PSG should have already won, that’s a certainty with the financial means they have, even if they are having an exceptional season at the national level.”

Impossible for PSG to aim for less than the title. The Final Four is no longer enough. “It’s the minimum objective. When they’re not there, it’s a failure”, recalls Denis Lathoud. The club will cash in the coming weeks the departures of behemoths of the workforce: Mikkel Hansen, Nedim Remili and Vincent Gérard are packing their bags, respectively in the direction of Denmark, Poland and Saint-Raphaël.

Are the Parisian dreams of the Champions League therefore weakened? “For the championship, I’m not worried, but at European level, it will be as tough as this year. The club is not getting stronger compared to its competitors. Paris is not starting as a favorite, predicts Jérôme Fernandez. Finding an outsider position, can that help them to get the title? Answer in June 2023.

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