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01.09.2017, 11:40
Can a record-breaking coach and big name signing guide Montpellier HB to the last eight again?
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VELUX EHF Champions League countdown: Since the new playing system was introduced, Montpellier HB were the first side to make it from Group Phase C or D and the play-offs, through to the quarter-finals of the VELUX EHF Champions League, where they lost to Veszprem as the team of coach Patrice Canayer came close to their first participation at the VELUX EHF FINAL4.
 

Can a record-breaking coach and big name signing guide Montpellier HB to the last eight again?

Since the new playing system was introduced, Montpellier HB were the first side to make it from Group Phase C or D and the play-offs, to the quarter-finals of the VELUX EHF Champions League, where they lost to Veszprem as the team of coach Patrice Canayer came close to their first participation at the VELUX EHF FINAL4. For the 2017/18 season the round of the last eight teams is again the objective.

Three questions before the new season

Can Montpellier manage another upset?

Last season Montpellier HB eliminated defending champions KS Vive Tauron Kielce in the Last 16 after coming a long way from Group C in the Group Phase and then through the play-offs.

Despite losing another top star - Jure Dolenec to FC Barcelona Lassa - Montpellier could have the ability to cause another upset. The young team is well-balanced, the preparation for the season worked well and in the French league they are tested nearly every weekend.

Their goal - to make it among the top eight again - is realistic, but, they know that if they win the play-offs, a second-ranked team from Group A or B will be their Last 16 opponents.

Can they shake PSG’s throne as No.1 in France?

Since the moment when Qatari investors started boosting PSG, the level of the French league has increased. With PSG firmly on top, other sides such as runners-up Nantes or Saint-Raphael have clearly improved - but after a short setback, record French champions Montpellier struck back.

Comparing the squads, Paris seem to be out of reach over a full season, but in a cup final, anything is possible. “We want to win one trophy in France, regardless of the competition,” says Canayer about his sides’ goals this season.

Will the Fabregas transfer have any influence?

After Dolenec left for Barcelona before this season, the next move between the two clubs is already confirmed as Ludovic Fabregas (21-years-old) will join the record winners of the Men’s EHF Champions League in 2018. Barcelona had wanted to sign the best line player talent for this season after Jesper Noddesbo returned to Denmark, but Montpellier did not allow it.

Now Fabregas (All-Star Team line player of the 2016/17 CL season) will have the chance to lift his side one more time in his final season with them while Barcelona looked to their Portuguese signing Felipe Borges.

Under the spotlight: Melvyn Richardson

Sons of well-known fathers always stand in focus - mainly if they have the same talent in their veins.

Since they were both 17-years-old, Melvyn Richardson (son of Jackson Richardson) and Dani Dujshebaev (son of Talant) have duelled against each other in the younger age competitions and this season, both will make their debuts in the VELUX EHF Champions League after Dani was signed by Slovenian side RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko, and Richardson will represent Montpellier after confirming he would move for this season from Chambery on the eve of the 2017 IHF Men’s World Championship back in January.

21-year-old Melvyn has already been awarded the MVP of the Men’s 18 EHF EURO and U19 World Championship, each time leading France to the title and after an extremely strong development at Chambery, he is ready for the next step.
 
Self-esteem

Besides the dream of at least one domestic trophy, Montpellier aim for another Champions League quarter-final. “First, we need to finish first or second in our group,” says Canayer. “The most dangerous opponent is Motor Zaporozhye but we have to be aware in all group matches.

“We have a long and successful Champions League history which we want to extend as all over Europe, we promote the Occitanie Region and the City of Montpellier.”
 
Team captain Michael Guigou has recognised an improvement in his side ahead of the new season. “We hope to challenge for another quarter-final participation,” he said. “But first, we have to keep all our eyes wide open in the group phase.”

Fun fact

Montpellier Handball were the first side not from Spain or Germany the Men’s EHF Champions League with 4 May 2003 the most historic date of the club, when players such as young Nikola Karabatic, Thierry Omeyer and Guigou beat Portland San Antonio in the final.

The win also means that they still stand as the only French men’s club to win an EHF European Cup competition, with rivals Paris Saint-Germain just the second-ever French Champions League finalist at the end of the 2016/17 season.
 
What the numbers say

Since 1994 - and longer than any other coach of any Champions League participant - Patrice Canayer has been at the helm of Montpellier HB. Right in his first season, he steered the club to their first-ever French league title, followed by 13 more league trophies and 13 cup titles.

Canayer denied all offers from other clubs and steers Montpellier into his 24th season.

Montpellier Handball (FRA)

Qualification for the 2017/18 VELUX EHF Champions League season: third ranked in France

Newcomers: Benjamin Afgour (Dunkerque/FRA), Melvyn Richardson (Chambéry/FRA), Mohamed Soussi (Club Africain/TUN)
Left the club: Arthur Anquetil (Sélestat/FRA), Samir Bellahcene (Massy Essonne HB/FRA), Jure Dolenec (FC Barcelona Lassa/ESP), Miha Zvizej (Ribe-Esbjerg/DEN)

Coach: Patrice Canayer (since 1994)

Team captain: Michael Guigou

VELUX EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2017/18 season): 20
Winner (1): 2002/03
Semi-final (1): 2004/05
Quarter-final (4): 2000/01, 2005/06, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2016/17
Last 16 (6): 1995/96, 2003/04, 2006/07, 2011/12, 2014/15, 2015/16
Main Round (2): 2007/08, 2008/09
Group Phase (3): 1998/99, 1999/2000, 2012/13
Qualification (1): 2013/14

Other EC records:

EHF Cup:
Finalist: 2013/14, Quarter-final: 1996/97
Last 16: 1993/94, 1994/95, Last 32: 1997/98

EHF Cup Winners’ Cup
quarter-final: 2001/02

French league: 14 titles - 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
French cup winners: 13 titles - 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2016
French League cup winners: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016


TEXT: Bjorn Pazen/amc
 
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