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02.09.2013, 20:45
Harvest time for wine sellers
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VELUX EHF Champions League countdown, part 9: Naturhouse La Rioja (ESP)
 

Harvest time for wine sellers

Welcome to the next stage! After three successful participations in the EHF Cup (twice semi-finalists and in the previous season qualified for the Group Phase), Naturhouse La Rioja made the next step to qualify for the VELUX EHF Champions League for the first time.

As third ranked team in the Spanish league behind FC Barcelona and Atlético Madrid the team of coach Jesús Javier González Fernández made it to the European top flight. By signing two stars of Atlético (Josep Masachs Gelma and Ángel Romero Rodríguez) the club from wine region of Logroño strengthened their squad and hope for the qualification for the knock-out stage in their premiere season in this competition.

Additionally, it is the clear aim to make it again to Champions League by a top spot in the Spanish league.

Naturhouse La Rioja will face much more experienced clubs in their Group Phase as Aalborg, Velenje, Flensburg, Hamburg and Halmstad will be their opponents.

But in the opinion of manager Jaime Luis González Gutiérrez the team, which competes in the Spanish Supercopa for the first time ever in September, is ready to rumble.

“For us playing the first time in the VELUX EHF Champions League is the biggest adventure in the short history of Naturhouse La Rioja. Our target is to create a good atmosphere in our arena and to win as many matches at home as possible,” he said.

Team captain Gurutz Aguinagalde Aquizu, brother of Spanish world champion Julen Aguinagalde (now Kielce), also hopes for the home strength of his team.

“We want to be competitive in our arena and we want to enjoy our fans. We play in a strong group, especially because of two German teams, but in my opinion every team can beat everybody,” he stated.


Three questions to coach Jesús Javier González Fernández:

What are your expectations for the upcoming season of the VELUX EHF Champions League -  concerning your objectives and your group opponents?

Jesús Javier González Fernández: We are ahead of important moments for our club because this is our first season in the VELUX EHF Champions League - so we want to make our sponsors and fans happy by big handball events.  Our group is a strong one, as we will face two German teams, additionally Aalborg is a tough opponent. So we must fight hard for reaching the fourth place.  
 
What does the participation in the VELUX EHF Champions League mean to you and your club?

Jesús Javier González Fernández: To be part of this competition is the biggest success in the short history of my club and a nice award for the good job of our staff. I hope this season can be the first step of a great and long-term trip to the VELUX EHF Champions League in the future.

What teams are your personal favourites to reach the VELUX EHF FINAL4 and for winning the title this season – and why?

Jesús Javier González Fernández: FC Barcelona have the strongest players in the VELUX EHF Champions League, THW Kiel are always on the top and have a balanced team each year, Paris Handball are improving each season and they signed good newcomers, so they should qualify for the VELUX EHF FINAL4. And KS Vive Targi Kielce will continue the good job of last season.

Naturhouse La Rioja (ESP)

Coach: Jesús Javier González Fernández, since 2007
Newcomers (including former club): Ángel Fernández Pérez (BM Torrelavega, ESP), Arthur Malburg Patrianova (Pinheiros, BRA) , Aidenas Malasinskas (Fraikin BM Granollers, ESP), Luis Felipe Jiménez Reina (BM Palma del Río, ESP), Josep Masachs Gelma (Atletico Madrid, ESP), Ángel Romero Rodríguez (Atletico Madrid, ESP)
Left the club (including new club): Marko Ćuruvija (without new team at this moment), Niko Mindegía Elizaga (Pick Szeged, HUN), Víctor Hugo López Romero (TV Grosswallstadt, GER), Pedro Rodríguez Álvarez (without new team at this moment), Ales Abrao Silva (BM Guadalajara, ESP)

Qualification for the 2013/14 VELUX EHF Champions League season: third ranked in Spain

VELUX EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2013/14 season): 1

Other EC records:
EHF Cup: Semi-finalists 2009/10, 2010/11, Group Phase 2012/13

Spanish champions: -  
Spanish Cup winners: - (runners-up in 2013)


TEXT: Björn Pazen / br
 
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