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30.05.2014, 12:41
Two opponents, two clearly marked roles
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MATCH PREVIEW: Debutant Flensburg call themselves the underdogs, while Barcelona are eager to go all the way in Cologne.
 

Two opponents, two clearly marked roles

Like in the first semi-final duel Veszprem vs. Kiel a debutant face a multiple Champions League winner. SG Flensburg-Handewitt made it to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 for the first time, while FC Barcelona hope to break their “German curse” in Cologne.

VELUX EHF FINAL4
Semi-final: FC Barcelona (ESP) vs. SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER)
Saturday, 31 May, 18:00 hrs. local time, live on ehfTV

“We have nothing to lose, we can only win,” is the general motto of SG Flensburg-Handewitt during their maiden voyage at Cologne. After failing twice in the quarter-finals against Ciudad Real (2010) and HSV Hamburg (2013) the team of head coach Ljubomir Vranjes arrived at the final destination for the first time ever. Exactly ten years after reaching their first of two EHF Champions League finals, SG call themselves “the clear underdog”.

On the other hand, Barcelona are labeled the big favourite. So no chances for Flensburg? History can make them feel more optimistic, as Champions League record winner Barcelona (seven titles) still have a negative balance on German ground - and at Cologne, if they face German teams.

Twice they lost the final against a Bundesliga rival (2010 against Kiel, 2013 against Hamburg), the only time they beat a German club at Cologne was in 2011 in the semi-final against Rhein Neckar Löwen - and finally they took the trophy by beating Ciudad Real in the final.

In this season, the only Barca match on German ground ended in a 31:38 defeat at Rhein Neckar Löwen in the quarter-finals, but the Catalans were lucky enough to turn the result around and to beat Löwen by the higher number of away goals.

“There’s no squad like the Barcelona squad,” Vranjes praises the opponent, mainly after their signings for this season: Nikola Karabatic and Kiril Lazarov. Boosted by them Barcelona kept their clean record in the Spanish league to become the earliest ever champions in Asobal. Flensburg finished on third rank in Bundesliga, below Kiel and Rhein Neckar Löwen.

And they have good memories on matches against Barca: On their way to the 2007 Champions League final, when they were defeated by Kiel, Flensburg managed to clash Barcelona in the quarters by a 31:21 (including today’s coach Vranjes as a player) - the fourth highest defeat ever in Barcelona’s international competition statistics. Barcelona won the remaining two matches against Flensburg.

Like Barcelona, Flensburg had to shiver until the very last second of the second leg of the quarter-final until their trip to Cologne was confirmed. Again the number of away goals needed to decide the encounter with Vardar Skopje after an already close Last16 affair with Celje, the team they were defeated by in their first ever Champions League finals in 2004.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / br
 
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