Preview: PSG Handball - Montpellier
Late on Saturday afternoon, Paris Saint-Germain Handball play host to Montpellier in their ultra-important Lidl StarLigue Round 21 fixture. In a sold-out Stade Pierre de Coubertin, the capital club will be looking to firm their grip on top spot against a direct rival.
Six matches from the end of the season, les Rouge et Bleu can take a big step towards clinching the title. Currently with a six-point lead over nearest rivals Montpellier, who are tied on points with Nantes (who travel to Toulouse on Saturday), Paris can stretch their advantage over MHB to eight points while enjoying the fact that they will face no more top-four sides for the rest of the campaign. Should Paris win all their matches for the remainder of the season, they will take the title - at the latest - when they travel to Saint-Raphaël in Round 23 on 12 May.
ChambÃ©ry prend provisoirement la 4Ã¨me place de la âš¡ï¸Ligue des Starsâš¡ï¸ en attendant la suite de la #J21 ce samedi 👌— Lidl Starligue (@LidlStarligue) April 18, 2019
📊 Le classement dÃ©taillÃ© 👉 https://t.co/FD6whE2dkW pic.twitter.com/9GAmJRBpHf
But the task will be no easy one for Raul Gonzalez's men, as Montpellier are one of the league's biggest sides and boast a talent-packed squad, including many France players. Indeed, in Les Bleus' last outing - a double-header against Portugal - there was a total of nine players from both clubs were in action, notably Nikola Karabatic, Valentin Porte, Vincent Gérard and Luc Abalo. Other national teams will be represented too: Germany (Uwe Gensheimer), Egypt (Mohamed Mamdouh) and Sweden (Fredric Pettersson and Kim Ekdahl du Rietz).
While a lot of the players know each other from national-team duties, they have also become familiar with each other with many clashes at club level. Saturday will be the fourth time the two sides have faced off this season, with Montpellier having won out the first time, in the Coupe de France quarters (32-31), before Paris took honours in their next two meetings - the Coupe de la Ligue (31-25) and the their first league meeting of the season, in December (24-32). This will be the last clash between the clubs for season 2018-19, and it will likely see one side take the advantage in their historical head-to-head record, which currently stands at 12 wins apiece!
In terms of statistics, Paris Saint-Germain Handball are shining in every sector. They boast the competition's most prolific attack (653 goals) but also its tightest defence (505 goals conceded), a status to be tested by Montpellier right-back Melvyn Richardson, who currently tops the league's scoring chart with 134 goals for the season. For les Rouge et Bleu, it's Mikkel Hansen who is the goal king, with 112 strikes (sixth in Lidl StarLigue). Montpellier have the division's sixth-best attack (571 goals) and its fifth-best defence (513 goals conceded).
To follow the match (throw-off at 19:00)
- Television: beIN SPORTS 3 (unencrypted)
- Live tweet: our official page