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31.08.2017, 12:20
Cervar’s double function and a pool of talent
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VELUX EHF Champions League countdown: Last season, HC Metalurg missed the qualification for Group C to the Last 16 by one point, now the second VELUX EHF Champions League team from the ‘capital of European handball’ is out for more.
 

Cervar’s double function and a pool of talent

Again, Metalurg coach Lino Cervar has composed a team full of talents, and, again, Metalurg are in three competitions. With a successful pre-season preparation featuring tournaments at Struga and Ohrid, a new team captain in Filip Kuzmanovski and a new Managing Director in Zoran Cvetanovski, could the 2017-18 see the team based in the Macedonian capital Skopje, emulate their city rivals HC Vardar and go all the way?

Three questions before the new season

How will Lino Cervar play his dual role?

As new coach of Men’s EHF EURO 2018 hosts Croatia, Lino Cervar has put himself under enormous pressure this season. Expectations are huge to win the men’s first-ever gold medal at a European championship and along with all the preparation with the national team, he also has to focus on the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase and the SEHA-Gazprom League - a huge balancing act for the Croat with a Macedonian passport.

Previously he had been the Macedonian national team coach alongside his club role, but this autumn and winter could present the biggest challenge in Cervar’s long and glittering career on and off court.

Can Metalurg exist beside mighty HC Vardar?

The fan base is different, the expectations are different, but the rivalry between the two Skopje sides is like between Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spanish football. Metalurg know that their financial abilities are far lower than Vardar’s, but they have different ambitions. Thus, both exist side-by-side on the River Vardar.

Which talent is the next to make it to Europe’s top clubs?

In previous years, players including Dejan Manskov (now Veszprem) or Filip Taleski (Rhein-Neckar Löwen) made it from Metalurg to bigger clubs. “Our young players can collect more international experience in the Champions League and we will give them more time to show that huge talent”, said Cervar, underlining the one goal of Metalurg. “We have one of the, on average, youngest squads at the top European level.”

It will be thrilling to see who is next.

Under the spotlight: Zarko Peshevski

The powerful line player (26 years old) had several offers to join new clubs but he continued his motto of; “once Metalurg, always Metalurg”. With players such as Obradovic and Taleski leaving the club, the physically-strongest Metalurg player will carry even more responsibility this season.

“We will be competitive and we have a bright future ahead - this is why I stayed,” said Peshevski.

Self-esteem

As usual, Metalurg fight in three competitions (Macedonian league, SEHA and Champions League) - and in all “we hope to be more successful as last season”, says Cervar.

Mainly, the two-time VELUX EHF Champions League quarter-finalists hope to make it at least to the group C/D play-offs.

“Our young fighters are well prepared for all challenges”, says the coach, for whom Montpellier is his favourite for winning the group. “Mainly the duels with Zaporozhye will be crucial, as we hope to continue the series of victories against Medvedi and Besiktas.”

Cervar leads a club which is pleased to get another chance to be part of the VELUX EHF Champions League. “We are extremely happy as this competition is the best place for our young players to show their talent,” he explained. “Metalurg was a hit of this competition before and our dream is to go back on the track of the old glories.”

Team captain Filip Kuzmanovski adds: “We have to show everybody that we deserve to be part of the Champions League.”

Fun fact

Skopje is the only city with two teams in the VELUX EHF Champions League and more, thanks to Vardar, who are also part of the Women’s EHF Champions League.

From 2006 until 2014, Metalurg played the dominant role, then Vardar took over the lead in the Macedonian league. The 2013/14 season was an historic one, when both Vardar and Metalurg were part of the quarter-finals after Metalurg had been the first-ever Macedonian side to get that far one year previously.
 
What the numbers say

Metalurg still hold the record of a player transition in the VELUX EHF Champions League. Before the 2015/16 season, an amazing 25 players left the club and nine new ones arrived – this pre-season though, it has returned to a relatively normal level, with the current rate of changes - six new arrivals and five leaving.

HC Metalurg (MKD)

Qualification for the 2017/18 VELUX EHF Champions League season: Macedonian runners-ups

Newcomers: Ante Tokic (Varazdin/CRO), Luka Stojanovic (Talent Plzen/CZE), Bozo Andjelic (Cegledi Kezilabda/HUN), Darko Dimitrievski (Borec Veles/MKD), Janus Lapajne (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA), Nikola Dnilovski (Pelister Bitola/MKD)

Left the club: Nemanja Mladenovic (Constanta/ROM), Predrag Vejin (Gorenje/SLO), Amin Yousefinejad (Pogoń Szczecin/POL), Nikola Kosteski (Selka Eskisehir/TUR), Martin Marcec (SG Bietigheim/GER)

Coach: Lino Cervar (since 2009)

Team captain: Filip Kuzmanovski

VELUX EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2017/18 season): 10
Quarter-final (1): 2012/13, 2013/14
Last 16 (1): 2011/2012
Group Matches (3): 2006/07, 2008/09, 2015/16, 2016/17
Qualification (1): 2010/11

Other EC records:
9 participations in other EC

Macedonian league: 6 titles (2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014)
Macedonian Cup: 5 titles (2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013)


TEXT: Bjorn Pazen/amc
 
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