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12.09.2017, 09:00
Motor Maxim-ise their performance
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VELUX EHF Champions League club countdown: With strong new transfers and a new coach, the Ukrainian champions aim to reach the Last 16 once more.
 

Motor Maxim-ise their performance

With new Polish coach Patryk Rombel and the arrival of top Belarusian star Maxim Babichev, HC Motor Zaporozhye hope for another ticket to the VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16. The Ukrainian team have the chance to take revenge against Montpellier for last season’s play-off elimination as early as the group phase.

Three questions before the new season:
Will three be the lucky number that sends Motor to their third consecutive Group C+D play-offs?


In 2015/16, they qualified for the Group C+D play-offs as group winners. One year later, they finished second below Nantes, then lost in the play-off against Montpellier (who went on to eliminate Kielce in the Last 16).

This season, Motor will face the French record champions in their group – in which these two teams are the clear favourites.

But the play-offs can include several stumbling stones, so it will be a steep path to make it among the top 16 teams in the competition again.

How does the club cope with having the home matches in different cities?

Kharkiv (like in the upcoming and previous season) and Brovary have acted as host cities for Zaporozhye’s home matches since the conflict in Ukraine began.

So far, Motor handled this situation in a brilliant way: In 2015/16, only Veszprém managed to take the points from Brovary, and last season, just Montpellier and Nantes claimed points in away matches at Kharkiv.

Can Maxim Babichev become the new boss?

The physical, strong line player has shared his position for three years with Serbian star Rastko Stojkovic at Meshkov Brest. Now the Belarusian international signed his first contract outside of his home country.

The 31-year-old will fit perfectly in the Motor team with his national teammate Barys Pukhouski, who joined Motor in 2015. Thus, Babichev can play a key role at Zaporozhye.

Under spotlight: Patryk Rombel

At the age of 33, Rombel is one of the youngest coaches in the VELUX EHF Champions League. The two-year contract at Zaporozhye is his first job outside of Poland, where he was a player and coach at MMTS Kwidzyn.

Rombel is joined by two Polish compatriots: player Pawel Paczkowski (from Kielce) and Michal Ganys, the physical preparation coach.

Rombel follows in the footsteps of previous Motor coach Mykola Stepanets and will be assistant coach of the Poland national team in parallel with his club responsibilities.

Self-esteem

The Last 16 is the main goal, but the dream extends even further: “We hope to reach the quarter-finals for the first time,” says manager Gennady Kasay, adding: “First, in our group we are sure to compete with our rivals to proceed – and our fans expect us to do so.”

According to team captain Sergey Shelmenko “we are ready for the battle. There are no weak opponents in the Champions League, but we hope to do better than the rest.”

Fun fact

It was February 22, 2014 when Motor Zaporozhye made history in Ukrainian handball as they became the first team from their country to qualify for the Champions League Last 16.

The key to the sensational success in what was their maiden voyage in the competition was an unexpected 26:22 victory in their final group match against Veszprém. In the 2015/16 season Motor repeated this success by making it from Group C+D to the play-offs, where they beat La Rioja.

What the numbers say

Since the 2013/14 season, Motor Zaporozhye took all Ukrainian trophies – winning the double four times in a row after their first league title in 2013. Before that, almost continuously since 1998, their local rivals ZTR Zaporozhye had been the Ukrainian champions.

HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR)

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

Newcomers: Maksim Babichev (Meshkov Brest), Gleb Garbuz (Sparkasse Schwaz Tirol), Aleksey Shinkel (SKA Minsk), Pawel Paczkowski (Vive Kielce)
Left the club: Gleb Kalarash (Magdeburg), Stanislav Jykov (Gummersbach), Sergii Burka

Coach: Patrik Rombel (since 2017, successor of Mykola Stepanets)

Team captain: Sergey Shelmenko

VELUX EHF Champions League record:
Participations (including 2017/18 season): 5
Last 16 (2): 2013/14, 2015/16
Group phase (2): 2014/2015, 2016/17 (play-offs)

Other EC records:

EHF Cup:
Group phase 2012/13

Cup Winners’ Cup:
Quarter-finalist 2011/12

Ukrainian league: 5 titles (2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17)
Ukrainian Cup: 4 titles (2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17)


TEXT: Bjorn Pazen / cg
 
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