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31.08.2018, 12:00
Sporting CP dare to dream big
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VELUX EHF Champions League Countdown: Sporting CP (POR): Winning national titles only is not enough for the Portuguese champions, who can’t wait to make an impact on the highest European level
 

Sporting CP dare to dream big

Sporting CP have successfully defended their national title in Portugal last season. It was their second straight domestic championship.

After winning the Challenge Cup in 2016/17 and making their group phase debut in the VELUX EHF Champions League last season, Sporting are confident that they can have a strong run in Europe’s premier club competition this year.

Three questions before the new season:

- Can Sporting CP do better than last season?


A year ago, Sporting came through the qualification tournament and won four matches in Group D, which left them well short of one of the play-off spots. The club has invested in new players, making the squad a mixture of talent and experience which can surprise in this year’s competition.

Team captain Carlos Carneiro raises the bar: “Our goal is always to try to do better. Last year we were unable to move forward from the group stage, even though we played good games. This time, we want more.”

- How will they cope with the loss of Pedro Portela?

Scoring 41 times in 10 games, Pedro Portela was a key player for Sporting in the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase last season. The right wing had played for the club since his youth and the fans loved him.

After Portela’s departure to French side Trembly, Sporting have hired two players, Fábio Chiuffa and Valentin Ghionea, who will add quality to the squad. Whether they will fully make up for the loss of Portela remains to be seen.

- Will the great atmosphere in the João Rocha Pavilion be important to this team?

Last season, Sporting won three of their five home matches in the group phase. In their quest for one of the top two spots in the group this season, it will most likely be a must to win five out of five. Therefore, the atmosphere inside the pavilion will be important as it can give the team an edge.

Under the spotlight: Frankis Carol

Since his arrival in 2011, Frankis Carol has become one of the leading players at Sporting, both in defence and in attack. He has been instrumental to Sporting’s rise to the domestic top. And the centre back from Cuba left his mark in the VELUX EHF Champions League as well, netting 63 times in 12 qualification and group phase matches. Sporting will need a similar dominant performance from Carol if their Last 16 dreams are to become true.

Self-esteem

Sporting CP are confident that they have what it takes to advance from Group C and reach the Last 16 for the first time.

“Last year was a return almost 20 years after the last participation in the Champions League,” sports director Carlos Galambas says. “Although we didn’t advance, I think we performed well. We fought on equal level with the European champions (Montpellier), for instance. With the experience we have gained, this year we want to do more.”

Fun fact

While each Champions League team has its own way of preparing for the new season, Sporting CP made an unusual journey to Qatar. Invited by the national federation, Sporting played the national team of Qatar twice - and lost both times. For Qatar, the matches were their final preparations ahead of the Asian Games, where they were the defending champions after winning the title four years ago.

What the numbers say

At Sporting it’s all about 11: that’s the number of players in the squad who are 30 years of older. It’s also the number of players from Portugal in the squad.

Sporting CP (POR)

Qualified for VELUX EHF Champions League 2018/19 season:
Portuguese champions

Newcomers: Luís Frade (Águas Santas), Fábio Chiuffa (Logronés), Valentin Ghionea (Orlen Wisla Plock), Neven Stjepanovic (Al Duhail)

Left the club: Pedro Portela (Tremblay), Filipe Borges (Tremblay), Michal Kopco (Ivry), Janko Bozovic (TV Emsdetten), Manuel Gaspar (Boa Hora), Bruno Gaspar (Boa Hora), Francisco Tavares (Boa Hora)

Coach: Hugo Canela (since January 2016)

Team captain: Carlos Carneiro

VELUX EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2018/19 season): 3
Group Phase (2): 2001/02, 2017/18

Other EC records:

EHF Cup:

Quarter-final: 2000/01, 2013/14; Last 16: 1994/95

Challenge Cup:
Winners: 2009/10, 2016/17; Semi-final: 2011/12

Cup Winners’ Cup:
Quarter-final: 2003/04

Portuguese league:
19 titles (1952, 1956, 1961, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1984, 1986, 2001, 2017, 2018)

Portuguese cup:
15 titles (1972, 1973, 1975, 1981, 1983, 1988, 1989, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2012, 2013, 2014)

Portuguese Super Cup:
3 titles (1998, 2002, 2014)


TEXT: Tiago Nogueira / ew
 
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