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30.09.2017, 09:40
Back court stars to lead Metz into top 8 again
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Women’s EHF Champions League countdown: Metz Handball (FRA) are aiming for at least a repeat of last season’s achievement when they reached their maiden quarter-final
 

Back court stars to lead Metz into top 8 again

Metz Handball needed 17 Champions League participations to clinch their first quarter-final berth last season. Now the French record champions are hungry for more.

A major change in their squad occurred on the line-player position where French Olympic silver medallist Laurisa Landre replaced Serbian World Championship silver medallist Sladjana Pop-Lazic.

Three questions before the new season:

- Will Metz make it among the best eight teams again?

The French champions have enjoyed a favourable draw. In the group matches they are expected to be among the three best teams, and if they proceed, they will avoid playing top favourites Rostov, Györ and Bucuresti prior to the quarter-finals. So reaching the quarter-finals again seems manageable. “If possible we even want to go further, to the FINAL4,” says coach Emmanuel Mayonnade.

- Does the strong competition in the French league boost the champions?

Brest with an impressive squad, Issy with some big names, Nice with top new arrivals, Nantes and Besancon with strong international seasons recently - the French women’s league has constantly improved in the previous seasons. Therefore, it is anything but easy for Metz to fight for their third straight and 22nd overall French title. But this strong competition can boost them.

- Can the tall back-court axis carry the hopes again?

Ana Gros (81 goals), Grace Zaadi (49) and Xenia Smits (48) were Metz best scorers by far in the previous Champions League season. Gros is one of Europe’s best right backs and Smits has grown constantly after her arrival from Germany. So, in combination with playmaker Zaadi, they can carry the hopes but the defence will be the key.

Under spotlight: Laura Glauser

It is not by incident that Laura Glauser is the central point of the official EHF EURO 2018 poster. In the last two years she was stepping out of the shadows of Amandine Leynaud, the regular France No. 1 between the posts. While winning Olympic silver at the Rio Games, Glauser had the highest saving percentage of all goalkeepers. With another season on an international high, the 23-year-old, five-time French champion can play an even more important role for Metz and the national team.

Self-esteem

The quarter-finals are the main goal. But Metz are aware of their opponents in the group matches. Last season they faced Thüringer HC and Glassverket, this season they will again take on teams from Germany (Bieitgheim) and Norway (Kristiansand), alongside former champions Buducnost. “Both the German and Norwegian team are stronger than the ones we faced last season,” Mayonnade says.

Fun fact

Jurswailly Luciano is one of the rare Caribbean players featuring in the Women’s EHF Champions League. As she was born on Curacao – an island part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands – Luciano (26) has a Dutch passport and formerly played for the Dutch national team, but the right wing is already in her eighth season with Metz.

What the numbers say

From the current participants only Buducnost and Krim have played more Champions League seasons (23) than Metz (19). Also, Hypo Niederösterreich have played 24 seasons. But with their 19th participation, Metz are ahead of top clubs such as Györ, Larvik or FTC.

Metz Handball (FRA)

Qualification for Women’s EHF Champions League season 2017/18: French champions

Newcomers: Manon Houette (Thüringer HC), Laurisa Landre (SCM Craiova)

Left the club: Tamara Horacek (Issy Paris Hand), Hawa N’diaye (Chambray-Touraine HB), Camille Aoustin (Siofok KC), Sladjana Pop-Lazic, Lindsay Burlet (both Brest Bretagne Handball)

Coach: Emmanuel Mayonnade (since January 2015)

Team captain: Grace Zaadi

Women’s EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2017/18 season): 19
Quarter-finals (1): 2016/17
Main Round (2): 2011/12, 2014/15
Last 16 (2): 1994/95, 1995/96
Last 32 (1): 1993/94
Group Matches/Champions League (8): 1996/97, 1997/98, 1999/2000, 2000/01, 2002/03, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2013/14
Qualification (4): 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08

Other EC records:

EHF Cup:
Final (1): 2012/13
Quarter-finals (4): 2000/01, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2007/08

Cup Winners’ Cup:
Semi-finals (4): 1998/99, 2003/04, 2009/10, 2010/11

French league: 21 titles (1989, 1990, 1993-1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004-2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017)

French cup: 8 titles (1990, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2010, 2013, 2015, 2017)


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ew
 
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