|21.04.2017, 08:00||◄ last page|
QUARTER-FINAL PREVIEW: Szeged, the team with the fewest goals conceded in the VELUX EHF Champions League, will take on PSG, the team with the most goals scored so far in the tournament.
PSG’s prolific attack out to break Szeged’s solid defence
Paris Saint-Germain Handball will travel to Hungary to take on MOL-Pick Szeged in the quarter-final first leg of the VELUX EHF Champions League. While the French powerhouse boasts an army of world and Olympic champions, their attacking prowess will be tested in Szeged, where the best defence of the competition awaits them.
QUARTER-FINAL, FIRST LEG
MOL-Pick Szeged (HUN) vs Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA)
PSG’s Round 1 defeat in Kiel might have cost them the top spot in Group A, but the French powerhouse marched through the rest of the season with great confidence and ultimately finished in second place. They are clear the favourites to reach the FINAL4 from this quarter-final tie.
However, MOL-Pick Szeged are no pushovers: The Hungarian runners-up finished third in Group B, just one point shy of second place. However, Szeged’s 17-point tally looks much weaker than PSG’s 24-point tally, and the calibre of teams in PSG’s group seemed stronger. It also must be noted that Szeged lost all their games against the sides that finished above them in Group B, while PSG managed to defeat Group A winners Barcelona, as well as getting all away points from Veszprém and Flensburg.
Up against Pastor’s Defensive Wall
Szeged’s strength lies in Juan Carlos Pastor’s expertly organised defence backed by Jose Manuel Sierra. Szeged conceded the fewest goals of any team in the entire competition: they conceded 25 goals per game on average. For PSG on the other hand, their average goals conceded per game is 27.
As for goals scored, PSG are the highest scoring team in the competition: Their 451 goals in the Main Round is 35 more than any other team managed.
In their respective Last 16 matchups, only the away matches tested PSG and Szeged. Nevertheless, Szeged got an away win against Bjerringbro-Silkeborg, while PSG managed to snatch a hard-fought draw in Nantes.
Their respective domestic cups brought no success to either quarter-finalist, as PSG crashed out on home soil against Montpellier, while Szeged lost the final against their domestic arch-rivals Veszprém due to a last second goal by Aron Palmarsson.
Stop the unstoppable
At home on Sunday, Szeged’s intention will be to slow down the pace of the game and make PSG suffer in front of their defensive wall. Pastor knows that errors in attack can be punished by fast break goals from the best pair of wingers in the competition.
However, if PSG play to their full potential in attack, even the best defence of the VELUX EHF Champions League will be in trouble. Mikkel Hansen, Nikola Karabatic and Nedim Remili are big game players, who step up when things get rough. If Szeged are to keep their hopes alive for the second leg, the home side will need to make it a priority to frustrate the visitors’ marksmen.
TEXT: Bence Mártha/kc