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22.04.2016, 14:40
“Hasta la vista, Barcelona!”
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QUARTER-FINAL PREVIEW: THW Kiel are eager to build a base for a ticket to Cologne against their old Catalan rivals.
 

“Hasta la vista, Barcelona!”

 
It took THW Kiel only a few hours to sell all 10,385 tickets for this handball classic against FC Barcelona Lassa - and the whole of Kiel will be electrified for the first leg of this quarter-final, in which three former THW players will return to their old home, the Sparkassen-Arena.
 
Watch the first leg live on ehfTV.com on Sunday 24 April, 19:30 (local time)

Filip Jicha, Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson and Wael Jallouz will be present on Sunday (19:30 hrs CET) when the ehfTV.com Match of the Week will throw-off in the tie which will eventually end the VELUX EHF Champions League road for one European powerhouse this season.

“It will be our match of the matches in this Champions League season,” said Kiel’s Coach Alfred Gislason.

“Barcelona have one of the strongest squads in the world with a huge width full of quality options to rotate, but we have proved in our last16 match on home ground against Szeged that we can stand the heat and the pressure.

“I am optimistic to gain a positive result - as Cologne is our goal.”

With that goal in mind, the German side have set a funny, but clear motto for Sunday’s match, based on the Terminator II movie featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger; “Hasta la vista, Barcelona!”

On both sides, the right backs return after injury breaks with Marko Kopljar (Barcelona) and Steffen Weinhold (Kiel) returning to the elite club competition after suffering injuries at the Men’s EHF EURO 2016 in Poland.

Barcelona have only won twice at Kiel - including the last encounter of these titans, when they eliminated Kiel in the 2011 quarter-finals in their den.

Like then, the history repeated every year that no team could manage to defend its title at the VELUX EHF FINAL4.

Kiel were the first, followed by Barcelona in 2012, when they were eliminated by FC Kobenhavn. In the previous two seasons the exit for the defending champions Hamburg and Flensburg was earlier, in the last 16.
 

As Barcelona won group B, they skipped this stage, directly marching into these quarter-finals as both Kiel and Barcelona are the only teams with five out of six possible participations at the VELUX EHF FINAL4.

Both are also the only teams who have won the trophy more than once with Kiel successful in 2010 and 2012 and Barcelona in 2011 and 2015 - so the series of one of them will not continue.

In total, both teams represent 11 Men’s EHF Champions League trophies, eight for the record winners Barcelona, and three for Kiel.

In all competitions of this season, Barcelona were defeated only once - on German ground, in their VELUX EHF Champions League opener at Rhein-Neckar Löwen, followed by a draw at Kielce. All other domestic and international matches ended with Barca wins.

Kiel, on the other hand, finished only fourth after their weakest VELUX EHF Champions League group phase since the implementation of the new playing system in 2009, being defeated five times, including their first home defeat since more than four years against Paris Saint-Germain last November.

For a shining star of FC Barcelona, these two games will mean the last duels with Kiel. Goalkeeper Danijel Saric (38) announced that he will leave the Catalans after seven seasons and so far 30 titles, including two VELUX EHF Champions League trophies (2011 and 2015) as he will transfer to the Qatari club Al-Quyada after this season, having signed a three-year contract. The Serbian-born shotstopper has been a Qatari citizen for more than a year and was part of the successful Qatar squad at the 2015 IHF Men’s World Championship, winning silver.

“Barcelona made me become a better player and a better person”, the goalkeeper said upon the news.

His replacement will arrive from Germany with Macedonian international Borko Ristovski, who has played for Rhein-Neckar Löwen since November and who will join the squad and his best friend Kiril Lazarov for two seasons.

While Barcelona have won all 25 domestic matches in the Spanish Liga Asobal so far and only mathematically need one point for their 23rd title, Kiel currently are fighting  with Flensburg and Löwen (one point below) for their 21st German title.
 

TEXT: Bjorn Pazen/amc
 
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