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07.09.2018, 12:00
Finding the way back to the top
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VELUX EHF Champions League Countdown: Telekom Veszprém HC (HUN). After being defeated in the Last 16 and losing the domestic league title to Szeged, Veszprém are highly motivated to do better
 

Finding the way back to the top

Telekom Veszprém HC have to find their way back to success. The Hungarian side crashed out of the VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16 against Skjern Håndbold, and later lost the final for the national league title to MOL-Pick Szeged.

Coach Ljubomir Vranjes and his team are motivated to regain the domestic title and get to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 again.

Three questions before the new season:

- Did Veszprém change their objectives after the disappointing last season?


Despite the struggles of last year, Veszprém are still Veszprém, and they belong to the top teams of Europe. Maybe the pressure will be bigger but the team is eager to fight themselves back to the top.

“Our goal is to win every game of course and we want to be at the best possible position at the end of the group stage,” Vranjes says. “We got the Champions League winners from the last three years plus Barça. It might be the toughest group ever. We have the opportunity to play and see good handball and I am enjoying it.”

Veszprém are determined to fully focus on the VELUX EHF Champions League, and that is why they will not take part in the SEHA league this season.

“You always want to win the Champions League. It is the main target for every club,” Vranjes says. “We played a good group phase but we played badly in the knockout stage. We are developing the team and to do so, you need the Champions League to have the best players.”

- In what way will this year’s Veszprém be different from last year’s?

Veszprém’s misery last season was a temporary period, which is over, Vranjes says.

„Veszprém’s attack and defence tactics are already in my mind,” the coach says. “We combine three types of defensive formations, a closed and an opened six-wall defence, and a five-one open defence. It will depend on our opponent what formation we will play. It is important to improve the cooperation and communication between the goalkeepers and the defensive players on the court. It satisfies me that I have excellent players in every position. I am optimistic and looking forward to the new season.”

- What will be the virtue of the team?

Vranjes is putting a lot of effort into integrating the five new players, who joined the squad in the offseason. “The most important is to create a competitive, united, success-oriented community. If we will be able to do this, nothing can go wrong,” he says.

Under the spotlight: Máté Lékai

The playmaker took on this role after Aron Palmarsson had been suspended in the preseason last year. Lekai was the key to several wins in the VELUX EHF Champions League, which gave Veszprém the second place in the group. For the Hungarian international, the reasons for his improvement are obvious: “I have more chances to be on the court and get more playing time. I feel more confident as Ljubomir Vranjes trusts me.”

Self-esteem

After failing to reach, at least, the quarter-final for the first time since 2012, Veszprém know the only way is up in the new season.

“We would like to qualify for the FINAL4 and, of course, the dream is still to win the Champions League,” team captain László Nagy says. “We know that it is very hard because the international handball scene is very balanced. It would have been hard to find tougher opponents in this group. Every game, point, goal and defensive play has importance on this level.”

What the numbers say

The last time Veszprém failed to go beyond the Last 16 - in 2012 - they bounced back in impressive style the following years: they reached the quarter-final in 2013, the semi-final in 2014, and the final in 2015. They will want to keep that record in mind from now on.

Fun fact

Veszprém had their successful streaks ended in both the VELUX EHF Champions League (quarter-final or better each season since 2012/13) and the Hungarian league (champions each season since 2008/09). But they still reached an impressive number last season as they won their 10th straight Magyar Kupa, the Hungarian cup.

Telekom Veszprém HC (HUN)

Newcomers: Árpád Sterbik (HC Vardar Skopje), Borut Mackovsek (RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko), Kentin Mahé (SG Flensburg Handewitt), Manuel Strlek (PGE Vive Kielce), René Toft Hansen (THW Kiel)

Left the club: Cristian Ugalde (TSV Hannover Burgdorf), Gábor Ancsin (FTC, on loan), Mátyás Győri (Grundfos Tatabánya, on loan), Mirko Alilovic (MOL-Pick Szeged), Renato Sulic (Wisla Plock), Timuzsin Schuch (FTC)

Coach: Ljubomir Vranjes (since 2017)

Team captain: László Nagy

VELUX EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2018/19 season): 24
Final (3): 2001/02, 2014/15, 2015/16
Semi-final (4): 2002/03, 2005/06, 2013/14, 2016/17
Quarter-final (9): 1997/98, 1998/99, 1999/00, 2003/04, 2004/05, 2006/07, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2012/13
Last 16 (4): 1993/94, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2017/18
Group Phase (3): 1994/95, 1995/96, 2007/08

Other EC records:

Cup Winners‘ Cup:

Winners: 2007/08; Runners-up: 1996/97

SEHA league:
2 titles (2015, 2016)

Hungarian league:
25 titles (1985, 1986, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001-06, 2008-17)

Hungarian cup:
27 titles (1984, 1988-1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2009-2018)


TEXT: Béla Müller / ew
 
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