Sports | Handball – Lidl Starlige: Nikola Karabatic, 7 years later…
Tonight, the other “clásico” PAUC will present a dream poster between the 2nd best defense and PSG, the best attack in the Lidl Starliga. 5,800 spectators are expected at the Arena du Pays d’Aix to hope to see the Parisians go down for the first time this season. This shock will also be an opportunity to see Nikola Karabatic, who saved PAUC from relegation in 2012-2013, back on the field. Care.
Nicola, what were you doing on February 13, 2013?
Nikola Karabatic: (little thought)… It was post-world, so I was in Aix, I think playing my first league game under PAUC colors. Yes, I remember, I believe against Montpellier (27-27) in Val de l’Arc.
It’s been 7 years, what memories do you have of your stay in Aix?
Nikola Karabatic: What wonderful times. I had a lot of fun playing in Aix, living there for 4-5 months and helping the club sustain itself. Now, 7 years later, looking at the path PAUC has taken, the great players who have been and are playing at the club, the super Arena in Pays d’Aix, the qualification for the European Cups, I feel that I am doing a small part of the adventure. I am proud to be at the beginning of this important story of PAUC in Elite…
And for helping to keep…
Nikola Karabatic: Look, we managed it with a great team and very good players. I wasn’t the only one in this exercise.
Today PAUC has changed a lot after your visit, how do you evaluate its progress?
Nikola Karabatic: It is not up to me to judge the club, but since 2013 I have always followed PAUC because it is part of my life. A lot of good things have happened. The club has progressed on the right track against the set specifications. Today, PAUC is not far from the goals, but far enough, especially with the redesign of the European Cup next year. The Champions League will be very complicated as the format will change. It will be more difficult to get in there. Each country will only have one club and there are few invitations, so you will need to finish in the top two or three to qualify for the Champions League. The march will be more complicated to move to PAUC. We also see that the level is getting tougher in the French Championship, although we have seen some internal turmoil in recent weeks, Aix have the potential to achieve this, but it is South (to laugh). Nothing can be left to chance to reach the top level, but I hope PAUC will come out of it.
It’s Clasico time tonight, you’re undefeated, can PAUC bring you down?
Nikola Karabatic: All away matches are finals for our opponents as well as for us, because they are waiting for us. Of course, we are not defeated, but we know that everything is possible in the league. Montpellier lost well in Ivry last week, we already went down in Aix (in 2017, 33-31), so I’m taking this game very seriously. PSG does not take PAUC lightly as a whole.
14 matches 14 wins in the league, 9 successes in the Champions League, only 2 defeats, what is PSG’s recipe this year?
Nikola Karabatic: We build last season. We play well, we defend very well, although we had injuries in October and two defeats against Barcelona in the European Cups, the squad is working well. We’ve been playing with Raul (Gonzalez, coach) for two years, so we’re starting to pick up the tactical systems he’s asking us to do, so things are going well.
The goal is to win everything, Champions League, Lidl Starliga, Coupe de la Ligue and Coupe de France?
Nikola Karabatic: Yes. We argue everywhere. We have tough deadlines ahead, Aix tonight, Nantes at the end of the month, we can already knock out the championship for the title. We are in the Final Four of the League Cup, we are in the quarter-finals of the French Cup, an important match in Szeged (Hungary) to finish 2nd in our group in the Champions League and to facilitate the draw for the round of 16, these are important deadlines for us to pass successfully.
You are 36 years old, you still have two and a half years of contract with PSG: what will be the future of Nikola Karabatic?
Nikola Karabatic: I don’t think about a post-career at all. This season is overloaded with future TQO at the club and in the French team. For now, I’m giving it my all until the end of the season…then I’ll have time to think about it. I still have two and a half years left on my contract, I don’t know if I will stop or continue. Everything will also depend on my body type. I’m feeling good at the moment, I’ve recovered from my injuries, so everything is fine. I have time to see it coming. I am savoring these last years, it is only happiness.
Both PAUC and PSG continue their hellish pace with a match every three days. Jérôme Fernandez’s men have nothing to lose against PSG’s big armada tonight. Despite numerous injuries, Aix will try to end the Parisians’ invincibility.