A look back at Paris's group stage campaign
Paris Saint-Germain Handball finished the EHF Champions League group stage in fine form, clinching second place in Group A on the last day. A look back at some of the highlights of this first stage of Les Rouge et Bleus' 2020-21 European campaign.
Top scorer: Mikkel Hansen
Mikkel Hansen's performance in Europe this season has been nothing short of exceptional; the Danish international hasn't needed a lot of game time put his mark on the competition. Indeed, in only 11 appearances (out of a possible14), our left-back racked up enough goals to miss out on being the group stage top-scorer by just a single strike! His 72 goals put him second on the scorers chart, with only Kielce's Alex Dujshebaev doing better with his 80 goals - in 14 appearances. Among Mikky's exploits, we will remember his performances in Szeged (29-32) and Kielce (35-33) with a ten-goal haul in each games. As a reminder, his personal record is 141 goals, achieved in the 2015-2016 edition of the competition. In the Parisian ranks, Mikky is followed by Nedim Remili (41 goals) and Kamil Syprzak (37).
Most saves: 93
At the other end of the court, another one of our players has regularly showcased himself: Vincent Gérard, who managed to repel 93 shots on goal during his 11 appearances. His highest number of saves in a single game dates back to 30 September when, despite the fact that Les Rouge et Bleu lost narrowly (32-31), our last rampart starred with no fewer than 14 saves at a rate of 32%. His goalkeeping partner Yann Genty concluded his group stage with 25 stops.
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The match: Paris-Kielce
In their rescheduled Matchday 9 clash on 23 February, the capital club arrived at a turning point in this first phase of the European campaign when they hosted direct rivals for second place Kielce at the Stade Pierre de Coubertin. Beaten narrowly in the first leg (33-35), Raul Gonzalez's men had the opportunity to make the difference in the double confrontation. And they did so perfectly! At the break, they seemed to have already done the majority of the hard work (19-10) before streaking up to 15 goals clear ahead in the second half (52': 36-21). That day, Luc Steins and Mikky were particularly effective, both firing 6 from 6. The positive result (37-26) ultimately allowed our team to take second place in Group A, at the expense of the Poles (19 points each, but better goal difference for the Parisians).
The stat: 44
However, the biggest victim of Les Rouge et Bleus' razor-sharp attack were not Kielce, but rather Elverum. Last week, on Matchday 13th (the final group-stage match for our players), they were nothing short of prolific! Indeed, with 44 goals scored (29-44), they set a new club record for goals in a single European match! To find similar performances, we have to go back to the 2015-2016 (30-40 then 40-28 against Besiktas) and 2016-2017, with a large success against Kiel, 42-24. In the championship, however, Paris Saint-Germain Handball have done better, securing victory 45-29 win away to Sélestat in 2012-2013. Finally, it should be noted that Paris finished the group stage with 388 goals in 11 matches.
The performance: qualified
In eight appearances in the Champions League, the capital club have never been eliminated in the group stage. This season, it could not have been otherwise, since all participating teams have qualified for the next round, in accordance with the new competition rules established in response to postponed matches and the pandemic. However, Luka Karabatic and his partners would have punched their ticket for the round of sixteen in any case - something they have managed to do every time since their first participation, back in season 2005-2006. At the time, the adventure stopped round of 16, against Kiel, but since then Les Rouge et Bleu have done better every time, notably reaching three quarter-finals and four Final4s, including the final in 2017.
Next up: Celje
By finishing second in Group A, the capital club clinched a draw against the seventh-placed side in Group B:Celje. The Slovenians finished their group phase with four wins and ten defeats for eight points. They did, however, achieve a few exploits, such as winning in Nantes (28-30). Celje, winners of the 2004 edition, have played Paris eight times in the past. For the moment, our team have a perfect record in the fixture, with eight wins, the last of which came last season, away from home, with a 33-29 victory.
The Round of 16 will be held between 31 March and 8 April.