Countdown part 14: St Petersburg HC
Once again HC St Petersburg qualified for the VELUX EHF Champions League last season, but again they had no chance against domestic rivals Chekhovskie Medvedi after two final defeats in the Russian play-offs. This season, coach Dmitriy Torgovanov will once again try to improve his team's international aspirations, and after narrowly missing the Last 16 twice in the past two seasons hopes are high of reaching the knock-out stage for the first time.
But this season Torgovanov will also have to integrate six new players into his ranks as well as coach, while nine of his former charges left the club - including top star Vadim Bogdanov and goalkeeper legend Alexej Kostygov.
But despite the changes in personnel the objectives at the Baltic Sea club are the same as in the previous seasons: ranking among the top teams in Russia and qualify for the Last 16 in the VELUX EHF Champions League.
New club director Sergey Ziza, the successor of Vladimir Ovanesov, is confident: "Only the best teams of Europe compete in the VELUX EHF Champions League, and we are among them for the third straight time. Though I know that all matches will be tough and a matter of nerves, I hope for the third time that we can manage to reach the Last 16. We want to show the whole of Europe our brilliant and memorable style of handball."
Top player Eldar Nasyrov, like his team-mates, is hungry for success on international level: "Everyone in the team is very glad to be taking part in the VELUX EHF Champions League. Some of us are participating for the third time and some for the first time, but all of us have a great hunger for getting the best possible results and to show that kind of handball, which will make Europe talk about the team from Saint Petersburg."
Three questions for coach Dmitriy Torgovanov:
ehfCL.com: What are your expectations for the upcoming season in the VELUX EHF Champions League?
Dmitriy Torgovanov: This season we have a new team, as after the previous season nine players left. We invited new players who want to prove themselves in top level international handball. This year it is again our goal to reach the Last 16 and compete with interesting teams.
ehfCL.com: What does the participation in the VELUX EHF Champions League mean to you and your club?
Dmitriy Torgovanov: For me it is an experience, which it is impossible to get in the Russian championship.
ehfCL.com: What teams are your personal favourites to reach the VELUX EHF FINAL4 and for winning the title this season – and why?
Dmitriy Torgovanov: I expect big competition between the Spanish and German teams.
St Petersburg HC (RUS)
Qualification for the 2012/2013 VELUX EHF Champions League season: Russian runners-up
Head Coach: Dmitriy Torgovanov (since 2009), coach Konstantin Andreenko
Newcomers: Mikhail Niazhura (HC Dinamo Minsk), Aliaksei Kishou (Zarya Kaspiya, Astrakhan), Andrei Novoselov and Yury Semenov (both Locomotiv-Polyot Cheljabinsk), Alexey Grigorev (HC Motor Zaporozhye), Sergei Kuzmin (Sungul Snezhinsk)
Left the club: Andrey Lyashenko (HC Motor Zaporozhye), Ruslan Gaboev and Nikita Samarskiy (both SKIF Krasnodar), Alexey Shindin, Ivan Pronin and Artem Vyshnevskyy (all HC Dinamo Poltava), Gennadiy Komok (ZTR Zaporozhye), Alexey Kostygov (Kaustik Volgograd), Vadim Bogdanov (HC Dinamo Minsk)
VELUX EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2012/2013 season): 3
Group Phase (2): 2010/2011, 2011/2012
Russian champion: - (runners-up: 2010, 2011, 2012)
Find more information about St Petersburg HERE
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TEXT: Björn Pazen