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18.08.2017, 11:10
Way to Cologne gets steeper for Barcelona
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VELUX EHF Champions League countdown: FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP). With the lack of serious competition in their domestic league, the Spanish champions are eyeing European success once more
 

Way to Cologne gets steeper for Barcelona

Unbeaten for years and enjoying a 158-match winning streak on home court, FC Barcelona Lassa have the same goals as ever this season: winning the VELUX EHF Champions League, or at least making it to Cologne.

They did so once more last season but finished fourth at the FINAL4.

The squad of Xavi Pascual did not change much. Jure Dolenec has replaced Kiril Lazarov on the right back, while experienced Jesper Noddesbö (replaced by Alexis Borges) and Filip Jicha have left.

Three questions before the new season:

- No competition in the Liga Asobal – advantage or disadvantage?

Knowing that no team will beat them in the domestic competitions, Barcelona can fully focus on the Champions League. Some say that it is an advantage – compared to Germany, France or Denmark – as players can save their energy. Other say it is an disadvantage as they have no challenges and cannot prepare against opponents of similar strength. Or, as team captain Victor Tomas puts it: “If we win the Champions League, it was an advantage. If we fail, it was a disadvantage.”

- Do Barcelona have a lack of playmakers?

Barcelona tried everything to sign Aron Palmarsson already for the 2017/18 season but it looks like the transfer will take place next year. Though Filip Jicha played mostly in defence last season, the now retired Czech would have been an option for the playmaker position. With Dane Lasse Andersson still recovering from injury, Raul Entrerrios remains the only Barca playmaker for now.

- Does the departure of goal machine Kiril Lazarov have an influence on the tactics?

Definitely, though Slovenian Jure Dolenec is a famous shooter, too. Maybe the overall number of Barcelona goals will decrease. But as Dolenec can also play in defence, there will be no need for a constant player change from attack to defence. It will make the defence more movable. And Barca’s goals tally will be spread out more.

Under spotlight: Lasse Andersson

Having badly injured his knee in a Champions League match against Plock in March, the 23-year-old back court shooter is still working hard on his comeback. The Olympic champion arrived as the most promising talent from Denmark last summer. Currently he is in the final steps of individual rehab. If Andersson returns with the form he had in Kolding, he will be a key asset. The good news for his team: He will have the time to adapt until the Champions League knockout stage starts.

Self-esteem

At least qualifying for Cologne and grabbing all Spanish trophies – Barcelona have the same target as always. But coach Xavi Pascual predicts a tougher way to the final destination of the VELUX EHF Champions League: “Reaching the FINAL4 is getting trickier every year because each season there are more teams capable of progressing and winning it. We will do everything we can to get to Cologne.”

In the group phase, defending champions Vardar and German champions Rhein-Neckar Löwen seem to be the highest hurdles. “I like to be in the same group with the champions, this way we can measure where our team is,” says captain Tomas, adding that “last year we were part of the most difficult group I have ever played in.”

Fun fact

Once Barcelona, always Barcelona. This is the motto of team captain Victor Tomas. He never played for another club and has been captain of the Catalan team since the departure of László Nagy. Despite missing his personal  fourth Champions League trophy, the 2016/17 season ended with an extraordinary record for the 32-year-old right wing as he win his 50th title with FC Barcelona.

What the numbers say

In 20 Champions League participations, FC Barcelona Lassa have made it at least to the semi-finals 14 times. No other team have a more successful history in the competition than the eight-time winners, who previously took the trophy also in the Champions Cup, forerunner of the competition. Like Kiel, they have been part of six of the seven VELUX EHF FINAL4 tournaments so far.

FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP)

Qualification for the VELUX EHF Champions League season 2017/18: Spanish champions

Newcomers: Jure Dolenec (Montpellier), Yanis Lenne (Sélestat), Alexis Borges (FC Porto)

Left the club: Jesper Noddesbo (Silkeborg), Kiril Lazarov (Nantes), Joan Saubich (retired), Antonio García (CSM Bucharest)

Coach: Xavi Pascual (since February 2009)

Team captain: Victor Tomas

VELUX EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2017/18 season): 21
Winners (8): 1995/96, 1996/97, 1997/98, 1998/99, 1999/2000, 2004/05, 2010/11, 2014/15
Final (3): 2000/01, 2009/10, 2012/13
Semi-final (3): 2007/08, 2013/14, 2016/17
Quarter-final (4): 2005/06, 2006/07, 2011/12, 2015/16
Last 16 (1): 2003/04
Main Round (1): 2008/09

Other EC records:

EHF Cup:
Winners: 2002/2003; Final 2001/2002

Cup Winners Cup:
Winners: 1993/1994, 1994/1995

Spanish league:
24 titles (1968/69, 1972/73, 1979/80, 1981/82, 1985/86, 1987/88, 1988/89, 1989/90, 1990/91, 1991/92, 1995/96, 1996/97, 1997/98, 1998/99, 1999/2000, 2002/03, 2005/06, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17)

Spanish cup:
21 titles (1969, 1972, 1973, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)

Asobal cup:
12 titles (1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ew
 
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