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BLOG: Tom looks at depth into the fine details that make THW Kiel and Paris Saint-Germain such different clubs ahead of their Match of the Week clash on Saturday night


Counterpart is an interesting word. It can mean equal and opposite which makes it a slightly contradictory word. To all intents and purposes, Kiel and PSG are counterparts. Obviously they are opponents in an interesting group of the CL, but they are equal on so many levels. They each have budgets that dwarf other participants, they have star names, they have each had indifferent results during the season and they are each favourites to go all the way to the VELUX EHF FINAL4.

But in all other aspects they are as different as chalk and cheese. For starters Kiel has tradition on its side and a propensity for winning titles. The same cannot be said for the Parisians.

Kiel have built and dismantled teams over the course of the last twenty years, each of them built on the mantra that you always try to replace with better. The system is working and each year, we are amazed at how they can lose such a vital player only to replace him with someone who after a few months looks like they have always belonged in the Kiel system.

Paris, to their credit, haven't had that many years to evaluate and experiment and so have gone for the car that can go from 0-100 in a few seconds. It's the equivalent of a learner driver buying a Porsche. Of course we can understand, with the mega-rich owners, that they want success and quickly. The fact is that patience is not about waiting, but how you act when you're waiting. It is not enough to throw money at an issue, although their experiment to bring more French players to the team is a step in the right direction. Fans love the notion that there is something, of themselves, on the court. PSG is more French this term and that is to the good. M'tima is a good step in giving youth a chance and the acquisitions of Accambray and Barachet gives them an even greater Gallic group and a definitive direction.

A piece missing

From the outside, where most of us sit, Kiel have made fanatics out of their fans and friends out of disbelievers. There is a grudging respect for all they have achieved, whereas, the common consensus, in relation to PSG, is that there is little to love.

It's like getting a Buzz Lightyear and a box of Lego for Christmas. Buzz is your pal, he'll take you to “infinity and beyond” and will be around on your shelf in twenty years’ time, still bringing a smile to your face. The box of Lego, on the other hand, has instructions, pieces missing, diagrams to follow and is far more complex. Sometimes the blocks don't quite fit together. It is not immediately accessible and although it might in years to come bring pleasure, it is cast aside in favour of the more “play friendly” Buzz.

PSG is like that box of Lego. There just seems to be a piece missing. What it is is difficult to quantify, but the fact remains that they seem aloof and inaccessible. Do we love to watch them play? Yes. But do we expect more? Yes.

When Kiel lost earlier in the season in their league and against Zagreb in the CL, the world went crazy. Stop the Press! How could this happen? Too many changes too quickly! The furore surrounding the defeats was like a death knell to the great club. By contrast when PSG lost in the league, it was: More of the same! They're not quite there yet! There are still issues to rectify!

We have a different expectancy of both clubs. Perhaps there is a feeling that we want PSG to fail and when they do, it is with a quiet satisfaction, that money can't buy everything.

But why should that exist for them and not for Kiel. They are counterparts. Two sides of the same coin. Money, stars and limelight. Perhaps the difference between the two clubs is that Kiel have more match winners than PSG. Individuals such as Palmarsson, Duvnjak, Canellas, Jicha and Weinhold can all decide a game alone. Added to this the team ethic and play and you have a potent mix. Love them or loathe them, it is one the neutral can enjoy.

PSG also have the match winners in Hansen, Omeyer and Narcisse, but the team play is not quite of the same level. There is a sense we are not getting enough and for all the talent at their disposal, they never quite bring the unbeliever on board.

There is a fine line between actors and act, wishes and fact. The actors we have discussed, the wishes for PSG are that they have a seat at the main table. I have been a huge advocate of the fact that they can achieve this year. The fact is that they are not there yet and losing at home to Kiel last week is a big dent to their ambitions. They need a big scalp and a misfiring Kiel would have been just the tonic.

There is no place to hide in these big games and big name players need to step up to the plate. Some didn't last week and as the French say, “Qui s'excuse, s'accuse”.

The difference in the game last week was a throw of a ball in the end, although watching it live; I felt Kiel had it under control. However, the pressure is now on them, at home, and that could be just what PSG need, to play without any expectation.

Albert Camus once wrote that “Life is the sum of all your choices”

PSG need to choose their next move carefully.

TEXT: Tom O'Brannagain, commentator