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09.09.2018, 12:00
Szeged want to build on momentum
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VELUX EHF Champions League Countdown: MOL-Pick Szeged (HUN). After taking the Hungarian championship last season, Szeged have ambitious plans in Europe
 

Szeged want to build on momentum

Last season MOL-Pick Szeged ended the winning streak of domestic rivals Telekom Veszprém HC, who had won the Hungarian championship for 10 straight years.

The triumph in their national league has make Szeged hungry for success in Europe as well. They hope the time has come for their first ever trip to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne.

Three questions before the new season:

- What could be the winning factor for Szeged?


Continuity is a main asset of Szeged. They have a loyal fan base, which always supports the team like an eight player. The sale of season tickets is on the rise year after year. And the coaches, Juan Carlos Pastor and Marko Krivokapic, have extended their contracts until 2021, continuing the cooperation from the past five years.

„In the new season we have to play better because not just Szeged will be stronger,” Pastor says. “The level we played on last year will not be enough for neither the Hungarian title nor the FINAL4.”

- Will this year’s group phase be easier for Szeged?

After finishing fifth in a group that included Vardar, Barça and Nantes last season, Szeged are confident they will advance from their group again this time - but it will not be easy. “In the VELUX EHF Champions League, there is no easy opponent,” coach Pastor says. “It is usual that the groups are compared to each other: which is stronger, which is weaker. But I believe that the top competition is not only about the group phase.”

According to team captain Jonas Källmann, a strong start will be important: “Some teams we have already met in the past years, some teams will be new for us. But no matter the opponents, we have to make a good start, which will give us a base for the long season ahead.”

- How will the team fill the void after the loss of Stas Skube?

Late May, the Slovenian playmaker signed a new contract for two more years, plus one additional. So his departure was unexpected, and came after Szeged signed Dean Bombac from Kielce. Time will tell whether it was a good or a bad decision to let Skube go.

Under spotlight: Mirko Alilovic

The Croatian goalkeeper joined the team this summer from main rivals Veszprém, so he is already familiar with the Hungarian league and he knows what it takes to reach the VELUX EHF FINAL4. But first he will have to work on good communication and cooperation with the defensive line.

Self-esteem

Though Szeged’s philosophy is to focus only from match to match, their expectations are high. And don’t want to hide their ambitions. Though other teams might have a higher budget compared to Szeged, the Hungarian champions are eager to grab the chance they get and make it to the quarter-final again - at least.

What the numbers say

Six is the number of new players who arrived at Szeged this summer. But equally important, several key players have extended their contracts: Richárd Bodó will stay until 2022, Stefan Sigurmannsson, Mario Sostaric and Matej Gaber until 2021, and Zsolt Balogh until 2019.

MOL-PICK Szeged (HUN)

Qualification for the VELUX EHF Champions League 2018/19 season: Hungarian champions

Newcomers: Mirko Alilovic (Telekom Veszprém), Stanislav Kasparek (Balatonfüredi KSE), Nik Henigman (RD Riko Ribnica), Joan Canellas (HC Vardar), Jorge Maqueda (HC Vardar), Dean Bombac (PGE Vive Kielce)

Left the club: Sergei Gorbok (HC Vardar), Stas Skube (HC Vardar), Szabolcs Zubai (Orosházi FKSE), Thiagus Petrus Goncalves Dos Santos (Barça Lassa), Ivan Srsen (HC PPD Zagreb), José Manuel Sierra Mendez (Saran), Márk Hegedüs (Eger SBS Eszterházy), Bálint Fekete (Naturhouse La Rioja, on loan)

Coach: Juan Carlos Pastor (since 2013)

Team captain: Jonas Källman

VELUX EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2018/19 season): 17
Quarter-final (4): 1996/1997, 2003/2004, 2014/15, 2016/17
Last 16 (7): 2004/2005, 2005/2006, 2006/2007, 2010/2011, 2012/13, 2015/16, 2017/18
Main Round (1): 2007/2008
Group Phase (3): 2008/2009, 2009/2010, 2011/2012
Qualification (1): 2013/14

Other EC results:

EHF Cup:

Winners: 2014/15; Quarter-final: 2000/01; Last 16: 1994/95, 1999/2000

Cup Winners’ Cup:
Semi-final: 1993/94; Quarter-final: 2002/03, 2008/09

Hungarian league:
3 titles (1996, 2007, 2018)

Hungarian cup:
6 titles (1977, 1982, 1983, 1993, 2006, 2008)


TEXT: Béla Müller / ew
 
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