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06.09.2018, 12:00
Plock want to learn how to win again
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VELUX EHF Champions League Countdown: Orlen Wisla Plock (POL). Starting in Group D this season, the Polish side have set their eyes on a Last 16 spot
 

Plock want to learn how to win again

Orlen Wisla Plock are starting the new VELUX EHF Champions League season in Group D. The Polish runners-up have got a new coach, four new players and a lot to prove to themselves and their fans.

Plock’s main countable goal is to get promoted to the Last 16 stage, but behind it there is a much more important objective: to believe in themselves and learn how to win on European level again.

Three questions before the season:

- How is the team’s attitude towards playing in Group D?

Plock are motivated to get better results than last year. “I think we need to learn how to win in the Champions League again, as last year we played really good matches against Barcelona or Nantes,” says the team captain, Marcin Wichary. “We could have won them, but we missed something. I hope this time we will show wisdom on the court.”

- What is the minimum target of Wisła this year?

The Polish runners-up want to reach the level they failed to reach last season. “Our objective for the season is to present ourselves on a high level and to be promoted to the Last 16. We hope that we can make it back into the Groups A or B in the future,” says ex-captain of the team and current president of the club, Adam Wiśniewski.

Even though their group now might seem easier than in previous seasons, the task might be even more difficult. “We want to be in the Last 16 phase, so this time we need to be first or second in the group. It won’t be easy but we are all determined to achieve it,” adds Wichary.

- What does the opportunity to play in the Champions League mean to Plock?

The Oilers have been the second best team in the Polish league since six years. The last time they won the domestic title was in 2011, and the ongoing rivalry with Kielce is a fascinating story in the country. On European level, the goal is also very serious. “Playing in the VELUX EHF Champions League is the primary target for the future development of our club,” admits president Wiśniewski. “We are strongly convinced that it leads us to build our ‘sport brand’ and has further impact on increasing our business potential. It shows that we are one of the most prestigious teams in Europe and boost sport and marketing development. It is crucial for our sponsors as well as our fans.”

Under the spot-light: Xavier Abate

Apart from four new players - winger Mateusz Góralski, left back Ziga Mlakar, line player Renato Sulić, and EHF EUROI 2018 top scorer Ondrej Zdrahala - Plock also have a new coach. Xavier Sabate’s responsibility will be to create a solid team and teach his players a new philosophy after Piotr Przybecki. He will have to cope with injury worries right at the beginning of the season as Nemanja Obradovic is returning from a shoulder issue and left back Tomasz Gębala will only be back in 2019 due to a knee injury.

“The coach invented a brand new concept of playing and we all need to learn it. We have a few new things in tactics but also in trainings and exercises,” says Wichary.

“As an aside I think the game looks very interesting and creative,” adds Obradovic.

Self-esteem

The Oilers are very focused on their goals. They respect each opponent in their group and understand that this time their role will slightly change compared to their previous appearances. “In A and B we could and the others had to. Now, it will be the opposite: we have to and the others can,” says Wichary.

Fun fact

For new coach Abate, Plock’s matches against Kielce will be even more than the heated derbies they usually are. The fact that Abata, as coach of Veszprém, lost the VELUX EHF Champions League Final 2016 to the Polish champions might add extra spice to the upcoming confrontations with Kielce.

What the numbers say

After four Last 16 appearances between 2012 and 2016, Plock finished only seventh in the group stage for each of the last two seasons. They don’t want to wait any longer before returning to the Last 16 again.

Orlen Wisla Plock (POL)

Qualification for VELUX EHF Champions League 2018/19 season: Polish runners-up

Newcomers: Ondrej Zdrahala (TSV St. Ottmar St. Gallen), Renato Sulić (Veszprém), Ziga Mlakar (Celje), Mateusz Góralski (Piotrkowianin Piotrków Trybunalski)

Left the club: Valentin Ghionea (Sporting CP), Maciej Gębala (SC Leipzig), Gilberto Duarte (Barça Lassa), Sime Ivić (Meshkov Brest)

Coach: Xavier Satabe (since 1 July 2018)

Team captain: Marcin Wichary

VELUX EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2018/19 season): 14
Last 16 (5): 1995/96, 2011/12, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16
Group phase (7): 2002/03, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07, 2008/09, 2016/17, 2017/18
Qualification (1): 2012/13

Other EC records:

EHF Cup:
Quarter-final: 1993/94; Group Phase: 2012/13

Polish league:
7 titles (1995, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011)

Polish cup:
10 titles (1992, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008)


TEXT: Magda Pluszewska / ew
 
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