Vincent Gérard: 'Istres have nothing to lose'

On Tuesday afternoon, Paris Saint-Germain Handball play their rescheduled Lidl StarLigue Round 11 match against Istres at the Stade Pierre de Coubertin. Before the match, our goalkeeper, Vincent Gérard, talked about various topics including Les Rouge et Bleus' record-equalling perfect start to the league season.

Psg.fr: On Sunday, you were back in Dunkerque, with whom you won the league. Are you happy to go back there for a match?
Vincent GĂ©rard: It's true that I spent five great years there. It's a pity, because there was no audience, no atmosphere. But I was able to see several of my former teammates. It's nice to meet up with players with whom I have experienced great things! It's always a pleasure to go back to the North and especially to leave with a victory.

How do you feel about your performance?
We were solid! We didn't break away in the first half because of several mistakes in attack and defence. Samir Bellahcene made a few saves that prevented us from extending our lead. He is a young keeper, but already very good. But at no time did we doubt the victory. We played a more than decent game and it was in line with what we have been doing lately.

Since you had a week without a match, your play has been much better. Do you agree?
Yes, we feel that the plans are going well, regardless of the defensive system, whether it is 5-1 or 6-0. In attack, there's not much to throw away either. We are very happy with our game and our state of mind.

Against Istres, you have the opportunity to become the only team in the history of the championship to start a season with 20 wins. Is that something that matters much to you?
It's always nice to mark the history of a championship. Especially this one, which is very competitive. We can even go further and say that last year we didn't lose, even if the season was truncated. It is a satisfaction and it shows our consistency. But we want to be champions first. We have to make sure of that, before we think about higher things.

Despite their ranking, Istres played well the first time you met this season (22-32). Do you expect a similar game?
At the break, it was very tight (30': 13-14). They are a team that plays well and very physically. They will have nothing to lose at home. We will have to take this game very seriously and not focus on Saturday's game against Montpellier. It would be a shame to get caught out.

Do you feel that you've done the hardest part in terms of clinching the Lidl StarLigue title?
If we win against Istres, we'll have a four-point lead over Montpellier. But nothing is ever set in stone. Everything can be decided in the final rounds. On Saturday, we will face the MHB and it will be another very important game.

You top the saves chart in the league (3228), but on Tuesday, if you save two penalties that will make it 200 stopped seven-metre throws in the Lidl Starligue. Is this something important for you?
It's nice to know that I'm the goalkeeper who has made the most saves. I've been playing in the first division since 2006. I'm happy with this consistency. But as I get older, I'm less interested in personal records and more in collective achievements. If I only need to save two penalties to reach 200, I'll try to do it (laughs). But the most important thing is to take the two points to take another step towards the title.

With your very busy schedule, you also played the Olympic Qualification Tournament with the French team. Is it a satisfaction to have obtained your ticket for the Tokyo Games?
The World Championships are very important, but the Olympics are only held every four years and this time, the last ones were five years ago. It was a date that we had marked since the beginning of the season. It was a big tournament with three games in three days against great teams. We are happy, because it was difficult physically and psychologically. We don't really know what the Olympics will be like. But for the moment, I'm not thinking about it. I'm focused on the goals ahead.

(Credits : J. Azouze/PSG)