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28.05.2011, 13:19
Preview VELUX EHF Champions League Semi-Final 1
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Rhein-Neckar Löwen face F.C. Barcelona Borges in a tight first semi-final of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne.
 

Preview VELUX EHF Champions League Semi-Final 1

If the results between the two teams counted from this season Rhein-Neckar Löwen would be slight favourites against F.C. Barcelona Borges in the first semi-final of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne this afternoon.

The Germans beaten their opponents 31:30 in Spain before drawing 38:38 on home soil in the first ever encounters between the teams.

In addition to these results Löwen have never lost any EHF European Champions League match against a Spanish team with five victories in two draws in their seven meetings.

Even though F.C. Barcelona Borges are the most successful team in EHF Champions League history with 118 victories to their name, their results against German clubs is more interesting with 24 victories, 23 defeats and two draws in their 49 encounters.

However, the Catalans have not lost any of their three away matches in Germany this season, drawing against  THW Kiel and winning at Löwen in the Group Stage, before the victory against THW Kiel in the quarter-finals.

The performances against defending champions THW Kiel make F.C. Barcelona Borges many people’s favourites for the EHF Champion’s League title this season.

Having started off weakly in the group stages, F.C. Barcelona Borges coach Xavi Pascual got his side to improve step-by-step and he now has one of the most balanced club teams in the world.

Throughout the team they have world-class players and can count on strong and fast wing players like Victor Tomas and Spanish all-time record top scorer Juanin Garcia.

Their back court axis consists of international experienced players like Siarhei Rutenka, Iker Romero or Raul Entrerrios.

“This balance is our strength,” said team captain Laszlo Nagy. “This year it’s our time to win this title.”

However goalkeeper Johan Sjöstrand is injured so Danijel Saric will be joined by the inexperienced youngster Gonzalo Perez de Vargas.

In 2010 Barcelona had no problems in their semi-final against Chekhovskie Medvedi and then led THW Kiel by a six goal margin in the final, but lost 36:34 and are hoping to bury the past this year. “We want to forget last year and return home this year with the trophy,” said Garcia.

Across the court Rhein-Neckar Löwen are self-titled underdogs, but have found their feet recently following some tough tests last month as they progressed from the Wild Card tournament through to the Group Stage and through to Cologne.

In the Last 16 they eliminated RK Osiguranje Croatia Zagreb and in the quarter-finals they were close to elimination after a two goal home defeat against Montpellier Agglomeration HB and were down by a two goal deficit at half time in the return match.

But a sensational performance in the second half ensured they qualified for Cologne. “A dream came true,” said top scorer Uwe Gensheimer.

Löwen are currently in their third straight season in the VELUX EHF Champions League. In 2009 they reached the semi-final and 2010 the quarter-finals, both times eliminated by German opponent THW Kiel.

Now they have their first appearance at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne and are convinced they can beat Barcelona again.


TEXT: EHF
 
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