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06.09.2017, 12:10
Common objective: beat Barca
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FEATURE: FC Barcelona Lassa have won the Liga ASOBAL de Balonmano in Spain for the past seven years, not losing a point for four years, but with the league returning to action tonight, can anyone change that?
 

Common objective: beat Barca

The Liga ASOBAL de Balonmano – the top-flight Spanish men’s league – returns to action tonight (Wednesday 6 September) as Fraikin BM. Granollers take on BM Logrono La Rioja in the opening match which can be seen live on ehfTV.com HERE, like all games from Spain’s top league throughout the upcoming season.

At the start of the new season two main questions remain to be asked about the leading positions in the ASOBAL. Firstly, one is the same that has been asked for the past four years; can anyone break the winning streak of 121 matches in a row – 159 in all national competitions – of FC Barcelona Lassa?

The other question is whether La Rioja can overtake Abanca Ademar Leon in the runners-up place, and VELUX EHF Champions League qualification for next season, after finishing in third place last season. Leon could, ironically, shift some of their focus from the ASOBAL this season to their Champions League campaign.

FC Barcelona aside, the ASOBAL is increasing in quality every season with a closer classification between all other teams come the end of the season.

Without exception, everybody can win or lose home and away and all have a common objective: beat Barcelona (at least once).

The ultimate favourites

The last seven ASOBAL championships have been claimed by FC Barcelona Lassa and this season they have already won the 2017 IHF Super Globe, beating Champions League title-holders HC Vardar in the semi-final and then Füchse Berlin in the final.

The team in red and blue have also won already domestically too, defeating La Rioja 31:25 last week to claim the 32nd ASOBAL Super Cup – their sixth in-a-row and 20th overall.

Despite starting pre-season training just one month ago they played well, and already look extremely dangerous, especially considering they have an even younger team than last season.

The team of Xavi Pascual are destined to win again the ASOBAL and apart from those last seven consecutive league titles, they have won 18 national trophies in a row (including the Copa del Rei, Copa, Liga, ASOBAL Super Cup and Supercopa de Catalunya).

The MVP of the ASOBAL last season was also claimed by FC Barcelona with young goalkeeper Gonzalo Perez de Vargas elected by the fans and the clubs for his great season, rounded off with being voted best goalkeeper of the VELUX EHF Champions League too.

There is a small sign of weakness as the team will be missing two important players this coming season in Kiril Lazarov and Jesper Noddesbo.

Lazarov, top-scorer of the team, has joined HBC Nantes and Noddesbo said goodbye to Barcelona after 10 seasons, to return to Denmark. In addition, Filip Jicha, whose move did not quite work out for either party, alongside 27-year-old Joan Saubich, have retired.

Jure Dolenec, Alexis Borges and Yanis Lenne have joined the team, continuing the generational change that the club started last year and will finish next summer with the final transfers joining them, which include Dolenec’s former Montpellier teammate, Ludovic Fabregas.

The other 15

Leon’s runners-up spot last season was their best position since they won the League in 1999 and this year they will have more physical-wear after they appear in the Champions League after a gap of three seasons. Without a big roster, Zivan Pesic and Predrag Vejin will be at the orders of coach Rafa Guijosa, who has lost Javier Garcia and Leo Santos.  

Guijosa should fight for second position again with the rejuvenated La Rioja, who have made many changes in the team after losing their main sponsor. Even so, they made the adjustments well and now the only question is how the squad can understand the new system in the little preparation time available.

Goalkeeper Jabub Krupa, Juan Castro, Brazilian national team player Fabio Chiuffa, Juan del Arco, Pablo Paredes and Tomislav Kusan are the new arrivals for them, after they lost important players including Kappelin in goal, Albert Rocas, Pablo Cacheda, Javi Garcia, Victor Vigo and Carlos Molina.

Fraikin BM Granollers (4th) and Helvetia Anaitasuna (5th) will look to continue their good seasons and get the ticket for the Men’s EHF Cup again.

Granollers, like many other clubs have made changes on the playing front, but also with their coach too as Antonio Rama replaces women’s national team coach Carlos Viver and he will have difficulty to keep fourth after losing key defender Alvaro Ferrer and Arnau García.

This new season Condes de Albarei Teucro return to the top division after just one year away and MMT Seguros Zamora do too after two years out. They replace Villa de Aranda and Sinfin who went down to the Honour Division.

With Teucro in the ASOBAL, fans can again enjoy a Galician derby between Teucro and Frigorificos Morrazo Cangas.

Quabit Guadalajara could be the revelation in the league, just like Cuenca did last year with sixth position in the end. They feature top-scorer of last season Chema Marquez (200 goals), the incombustible 45-year-old Jota Hombrados in goal, and new players Victor Vigo and Javi Garcia, who joined from Logrono.


TEXT: Laia Coll/AMC
 
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