Luka Karabatic: 'Always difficult to play there'

On Sunday afternoon, Paris Saint-Germain Handball travel to Celje for their Velux EHF Champions League Round 11 clash. Our captain, Luka Karabatic, gave us his thoughts on the match the current form of Les Rouge et Bleu.

Psg.fr: How was it spending January here in Paris?

Luka Karabatic: The players who stayed worked well physically. All the internationals are happy to be back at Coubertin and are enjoying the great atmosphere in this team. We're looking forward to the second half of the season, when there are titles to be won.

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Dimanche, vous retrouvez la Ligue des Champions. Que penses-tu de votre adversaire, Celje ?
C’est une équipe qui ne joue pas les premières places de la poule. Mais elle est très jeune et est capable de faire de belles choses, notamment chez elle… C’est toujours compliqué de jouer là-bas, surtout après une seule de semaine de préparation avec le groupe au complet.

Après cette longue trêve, vous êtes sur vos gardes ?
Il faut être vigilant et attentif. On sait que dans le handball ça peut aller très vite. Nous avons fait une bonne première partie de saison, mais il s’est passé beaucoup de temps depuis. Ça rabat un peu les cartes… Il faut réenclencher la machine !

L’objectif est maintenant d’aller chercher la deuxième place de la poule ?
En perdant chez nous contre Barcelone, on a forcément hypothéqué nos chances de terminer en tête. On ne sait jamais ce qu’il peut se passer, mais la deuxième place semble la plus réaliste, même si elle va être aussi compliquée. Szeged joue très bien depuis plusieurs saisons et a les qualités pour finir à cette place. Ça sera une belle bataille. Le match que nous disputerons en Hongrie sera sans doute déterminant.

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On Sunday, you're back in the Champions League. What do you think of your opponent, Celje?

They're a team who don't play at the top of the group. But they're very young and are capable of doing great things, especially at home. It's always difficult to play there, especially after just one week's preparation with the whole squad.

After this long break, are you on your guard?

You have to be vigilant and attentive. We know that in handball it can go very fast. We had a good first part of the season, but a lot has happened since then. Things can change... We have to restart the machine!

The goal now is to go for second place in the group?

Losing at home to Barcelona meant we've necessarily jeopardised our chances of finishing top. You never know what can happen, but second place seems the most realistic, even if it's going to be just as complicated. Szeged have been playing very well for several seasons and have the qualities to finish in that position. It's going to be a great battle. The match we play in Hungary will probably be decisive.

In your opinion, what ingredients did the team lack to get to the Final4 last season?

What we missed was 10-15 minutes in Kielce. We got dominated and after that we dragged it... Everything else was very good throughout the competition. So you don't have to change much. You just have to limit those weak times when things aren't going your way...

Now that the Super Bowl's over, how are you going to keep Sunday nights busy?

I haven't had time to ask myself that question [laughs]. At home, my wife and daughter will be happy. I'm a little sad, but the NFL only lasts three months and that's what makes it fun.

What do you like about the NFL?

It's very complete! It's a ball and throwing sport, which can be a little bit like handball. With the show that's going on around it, it's really a world apart. It's very beautiful to watch.

Which player on the team could have become an American footballer?

We often laugh when we talk about Dylan [Nahi], who is very strong physically. He's a machine and I think he would have been very good. But he's very good at handball too [laughs]!

You can watch the first part of our interview with Luka Karabatic on video here.

(Credits: TeamPics/PSG)