Pre-match: Nîmes – PSG Handball

On Wednesday night, Lidl StarLigue leaders Paris Saint-Germain Handball travel to Nîmes, who sit in third coming off a run of five consecutive wins, for their Round 8 clash. The Rouge et Bleu will head to Parnasse, where they came close to defeat last season.

A blistering start!
After finishing tenth in 2016-2017, with 22 points, the Green Team are moving onwards and upwards in the current campaign. After just seven rounds, they have 12 points and sit in third place on the table (one point shy of second and two of top). Their impressive standing is no surprise, however, if you look at their early-season performances. Almost no-one has been able to get them off track - only Montpellier, who sit in second, have managed to stop USAM this season (24-28). Other than that, they have claimed a maximum of points, be it away to Saint-Raphaël (31-35), against Dunkerque (31-25) and faced with Saran (20-29). Their recent performances have been so good that Rémi Desbonnet and Julien Rebichon finished third and first respectively in the Lidl StarLigue's voting for the Player of the Month in October.

Desbonnet the gatekeeper
As has been the case several times in recent weeks, the Rouge et Bleu will be up against a tough defence. While Paris Saint-Germain Handball's back line is the league's best (172 goals conceded), Nîmes - and also Montpellier - are extremely close behind (173). This impressive statistic has come in no small part thanks to their 'keeper Rémi Desbonnet. The former Montpellier man has had an excellent start to the season and is well on his way to breaking his own record for saves in a single season. Currently on 102 stops in seven matches, he is only 73 saves off his personal best, achieved in season 2015-2016 (in 26 matches). This year, no-one is outdoing him.

Solid transfers
But Desbonnet isn't the only thing Nîmes has to crow about this season. Indeed, even among the club's new faces, no-one is dragging the chain. The club's directors recruited players with Lidl StarLigue experiences such as O’Brian Nyateu (Nantes), Jérémy Suty (Cesson) and Tomi Vozab (Saran), who is currently the club's second-top scorer (34 goals). He sits just ahead of Mohammed Sanadm, who is in his first season in the French league. The Egyptian international, who signed from La Rioja, has undertaken the huge task of replacing the retiring Snorri Gudjonsson, and it's going well - he has 41 goals to his name this season (second only to Gensheimer on the Lidl StarLigue scoring chart). He was notably one of the main forces in his side's win away to Saint-Raphaël, shooting 10 from 12 against SRVHB.

Nîmes – Paris (2016-2017)
Over and above Nîmes' excellent start to the Lidl StarLigue campaign, which on its own is enough to make Paris' task tough, things will be even more difficult as the clash is to be played at Parnasse. There are no easy wins there, as Zvonimir Serdarusic's men found out last season. Seven goals down at the break (19-12), Paris Saint-Germain Handball made an epic comeback that saw them turn things right around (33-36). That night, Nedim Remili and Uwe Gensheimer's respective nine-goal hauls - as well as Clément Gaudin's six saves - were what it took to get the result, and the Rouge et Bleu will likely have to play at least as well to continue their perfect start to the league season.

To follow the match (throw-off at 20:45)

Check out the full Lidl StarLigue standings here!

(Credits: PSG)