Preview: Istres - PSG Handball

After their Trophée des Champions win over Montpellier in Limoges last weekend, Paris Saint-Germain Handball return to Lidl StarLigue action on Wednesday evening, putting their title back on the line away to Istres, who beat the drop in style last season.

Objective achieved
A few months after clinching the Proligue title, Istres had a difficult first part of the season in the French handball elite. With zero wins to their name by the time the winter break rolled around, Gilles Derot's team looked to be in serious trouble. But the turning point arrived at the end of February, in Round 16, when they got the better of Aix (25-24), thanks to a superb performance from young left-winger Junior Tuzolana, who scored five goals in the last three minutes! After that, Istres hit their stride and secured their top-flight future with five more wins, which gave them a handy six-point lead over Cesson-Rennes and the drop zone.

A re-worked squad
To avoid flirting with relegation in the coming campaign, the Istrian staff worked well behind the scenes over the summer. On top bolstering their squad, they had compensate for the departures of Robin Cappelle (Gazélec Ajaccio), Branko Kankaras (Meshkov Brest), Erwin Feuchtmann (Ademar Leon) and Théo Derot. Former France international Derot, who arrived in January to help save the club coached by his father, finally decided to give his career a new lease of life by moving into the aviation industry. To compensate for these losses, the IPHB chose six players, notably including Vasko Sevaljevic. The 31-year-old Montenegrin left-back has 389 Lidl StarLigue goals, 82 of which were scored last season with Tremblay. Arnaud Tabarand (Billère), Louis Roche (Chartres), Oussama Hosni (Pontault-Combault), Andrea Parisini (Strasbourg) and Rasmus Nielsen (Sønderjyske) also joined.

Paris off to a strong start
For their part, Les Rouge et Bleu officially launched their season with the Trophée des Champions in Limoges on Saturday, where Luka Karabatic and his partners were facing Montpellier, their league runners-up from last season. Thanks to a very strong start, our team quickly took control of the game and never let it go (34-27). Former Montpellier man Vincent Gérard was one of the capital club's best, turning back 17 shots from his former team-mates (39%). At the other end of the court, Mikkel Hansen proved that he is already in fine fettle, firing 11 from 12. It should be noted that only two more goals are needed for the Danish international level to reach the 1000-goal mark in the Lidl StarLigue.

The last encounter
Last year, the two teams met at Istres' Halle Polyvalente at the beginning of the season, in Round 2. The capital club had their work cut out for them but won out in the end (24-31). Five goals each from Nedim Remili and Uwe Gensheimer, but above all Rodrigo Corrales' 13 saves, helped Les Rouge et Bleu to make the difference. The Parisian rear-guard proved very effective that day, managing to muzzle Nicolas Boschi (Istres's top scorer in season 2018-19 with 103 goals), who fired 0 from 6. The head-to-head record between the clubs stands at 12 wins and three losses for Paris, with a further three draws.

To follow the match (throw-off at 20:30 CET)
- Television: beIN SPORTS Max 4
- Live tweet: our official page

(Credits: J. Azouze/PSG)