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28.08.2015, 11:40
Three could be the lucky number
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VELUX EHF Champions League club countdown: 18 days to go - HC Vardar (MKD)
 

Three could be the lucky number

In 2014 only one goal was amiss in the quarter-final of the VELUX EHF Champions League against the to-be champions SG Flensburg-Handewitt, in 2015 they were beaten twice in a tight encounter with Kielce - so in their third attempt to make it to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne could be the lucky number for HC Vardar.

“After failing narrowly twice it is our goal to qualify for Cologne,” says Davor Stojanoski, club director of the Macedonian champions.

As the core of last season’s team - except the two Russians Alexej Rastvortsev and Mikhail Chipurin -  has remained the same and Vardar have strengthened their squad by signings like Jorge Maqueda, Luka Cindric, Dejan Manaskov or Alexandr Dereven. With such strong signings their goals are clearly set for the team of Spanish-born coach Raul Gonzalez.

Vardar will face defending champions Barcelona, Kielce, Kolding, Szeged, Löwen, Kristianstad and Montpellier in tough group B of the VELUX EHF Champions League - but after growing year by year the Macedonians are confident.

Team captain Filip Lazarov expresses the dream of making it to Cologne: “Our goal is the FINAL4 after being so close to it twice. This season we five new players plus the experience from the past two years, so dreaming about the FINAL4 is realistic.”

Lazarov’s favourites for topping the table after the completion of the group phase are Barcelona and Kielce: “Those teams have a small advantage compared to the rest, but the season will be long and interesting. It will be difficult for all teams in groups A and B to finish on top.”

Director Davor Stojanoski agrees, but mainly hopes for the home advantage in their fortress: “All opponents in our group are very strong, we respect all of them. But in the previous years we have competed with many of those, so we know them very well. It is our aim to win all the matches at home and to build a base for a successful group phase.”

As handball is the most popular team sport in FYR Macedonia, the expectations on Vardar on international ground - VELUX EHF Champions League and SEHA Liga - are high: “Even our new arena with a capacity of 6000 fans is too small already. If we would switch to a bigger hall with a capacity of 15,000 it would sell-out in no time,” says Stojanoski.

HC Vardar (MKD)

Qualification for the 2015/2016 VELUX EHF Champions League season: Macedonian champions

Newcomers:  Mijajlo Marsenic (HC Partizan), Luka Cindric (HC Metalurg), Jorge Maqueda (HC Nantes), Dejan Manaskov (HSG Wetzlar), Aleksander Dereven (HC Chekhovskie Medvedi)

Left the club:  Nemanja Pribak (HC Besiktas), Dobrivoje Markovic (destination unknown), Stefan Terzic (HC La Rioja), Vladimir Petric (end of carrier), Alexei Rastvortsev (HC Vojvodina), Mikhail Chipurin (HC Ivry)

Coach: Raul Gutierrez Gonzalez (since November 2013)

Opponents in the group phase: Barcelona, Kielce, Kolding, Szeged, Löwen, Kristianstad, Montpellier in group B

VELUX EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2015/16 season): 10
Quarter-final (2): 2013/14, 2014/15
Last 32 (1): 1999/00
Group Phase (6): 2001/02, 2002/03, 2003/04, 2004/05, 2007/08, 2009/10
Other EC records:
Cup Winners’ Cup:
Semi-finalist 1998/99, 2004/05, 2010/11
Quarter-finalist 2006/07

Other achievements:
Winner of SEHA Liga 2012, 2014

Macedonian champion: 1998/99, 2000/01, 2001/02, 2002/03, 2003/04, 2006/07, 2008/09, 2012/13, 2014/15
Macedonian Cup winner: 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015


TEXT: Björn Pazen / bc
 
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