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27.05.2018, 11:30
Canayer’s second trophy or the crown for the ‘Cinderellas’
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FINAL PREVIEW: Two French FINAL4 debutants – Nantes and Montpellier – will clash to decide the 25th EHF Champions League title
 

Canayer’s second trophy or the crown for the ‘Cinderellas’

After France became both men’s and women’s world champions in 2017, Sunday will mark another historic day for French handball: For the first time ever, two French sides will fight for the VELUX EHF Champions League trophy. Either Montpellier will win their second trophy, after 2003, or Nantes will crown their Cinderella story – making it from the second division in their domestic league to the Champions League winners’ podium in 11 years.

• It is the first time two French sides clash in an EHF Champions League Final
• It is the first time two VELUX EHF FINAL4 debutants meet to decide the trophy
• Wing Michael Guigou and coach Patrice Canayer are the last survivors of Montpellier’s 2003 triumph
• Nikola Portner could become the first ever Swiss Champions League winner, Diego Simonet the first from Argentina and Jonas Truchanovicius the first from Lithuania (all Montpellier)
• Dominik Klein, Kiril Lazarov and Eduardo Gurbindo are the only Nantes players who have already won the trophy


FINAL
HBC Nantes (FRA) vs Montpellier HB (FRA)
Sunday 27 May, 18:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

Two VELUX EHF FINAL4 debutants will meet in the 2017/18 final – one team that made it all the way from the Groups C/D duels and the other playing only their second VELUX EHF Champions League season. The final clash between HBC Nantes and Montpellier HB was certainly not expected at the start of the season, and not even prior to the semi-finals on Saturday.

But as Nantes beat PSG 32:28 and Montpellier had the luckier finish to their semi-final, which saw them eliminate defending champions Vardar 28:27, the first all-French final in the history of the EHF Champions League will electrify France, Europe and the fans in LANXESS arena on Sunday.

For the third time after 2011 (Barcelona vs Madrid) and 2014 (Flensburg vs Kiel), two teams from the same nation will duel in the final in Cologne.

So far, only one French team has taken the trophy – Montpellier in 2003, which made them the first non-Spanish or non-German side to do so. Patrice Canayer was already the coach for Montpellier at that point, and Michael Guigou was the left wing in this team. 15 years later, the duo have the chance to repeat this success.

FINAL4.Vardar-Montpellier_Guigou_565

“It is simply a dream coming true. Hopefully we can enjoy a little besides just working hard. Sure, both teams know each other very well from the French league. There are no secrets between us. In fact, neither of the teams is to be considered the better one,” said Guigou before the duel.

In his side, three players can make history by becoming the first ever EHF Champions League winners from their respective countries: Nikola Portner (Switzerland), Diego Simonet (Argentina) and Jonas Truchanovicius (Lithuania).

In addition, two players who won the Champions League 2006/07 together (with THW Kiel) will clash in the final: Slovenian Vid Kavticnik (Montpellier) and German Dominik Klein (Nantes). Klein will play his last international match before he ends his career – and can win the Champions League for the fourth time after 2007, 2010 and 2012, in what is his overall seventh final and the fourth in Cologne. “It is a special story for me to be here. There’s no better place to end my career than with this highlight,” said Klein, who suffered a minor thigh injury after scoring Nantes’ final goal against PSG.

Two other Nantes players can win their second Champions League trophies in Cologne: All-time FINAL4 record scorer Kiril Lazarov and Eduardo Gurbindo, both of whom were part of the victorious FC Barcelona squad in 2015. Gurbindo and David Balaguer can crown a sensational season with another trophy, after becoming EHF EURO 2018 champions for Spain.

“We have the chance to write history. I wasn't surprised at all that Nantes won against Paris – they can beat anyone on good days and they have a lot of good days, so it clearly won't be easy tomorrow. Both teams know each other so well and it's kind of a parallel to our national championship,” said Montpellier line player Ludovic Fabregas, who will leave for Barcelona after this season.

So far, Nantes and Montpellier have only met twice on international ground, when Montpellier beat Nantes in both legs of the EHF Cup 2013/14 Quarter-finals. In the French league, Montpellier are currently ranked second, while Nantes are third.

Photo: EHF / Heimken, Hocevar, Lämmerhirt, Stadler


TEXT: Björn Pazen / cg
 
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