Close matches expected at Flensburg vs. Aragon and Gummersbach vs. Celje.
Three nations fight for EHF Cup Winners’ Cup Final
Two Germany teams, Slovenia and Spain will fight in the semi-finals of the EHF Cup Winners’ Cup from 22–28 April - including defending champions VfL Gummersbach who are targeting their fourth straight European Cup title.
SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) vs. Caja3 BM Aragon (ESP)
Germany vs. Spain is a common duel in the crucial stages of all European Cup competitions, and for SG Flensburg-Handewitt the second leg game will be their 14th EC or EHF Champions League match in Spain. And both teams know how to reach a final: Flensburg won the EHF City Cup in 1999 and the Men's EHF Cup in 1997 and were twice (2004 and 2007) finalists in the EHF Champions League. BM Aragon from Saragossa was EHF Cup finalists in 2007, but missed the title against SC Magdeburg from Germany.
"Aragon is a tough opponent, but I like to return to Spain," Flensburg coach Ljubomir Vranjes - who played in Spain before coming to Germany - said after the draw. His counterpart on the Spanish side is former World Champion Mariano Ortega. Except for Hungarian Gabor Grebenar, there are only Spanish players at Aragon, a club which has qualified constantly in the last few years for European Cup competitions. Top player is Sergio Ruis Casanova, who had played in Germany some years ago.
Flensburg - VELUX EHF Champions League quarter-finalists last season – have a mixture of German and Scandinavian players, key factors are Swedish goalkeeper Mathias Andersson, the German internationals and former EC winners Lars Kaufmann (with Göppingen) and Holger Glandorf (with Nordhorn). But currently Glandorf is out of contention due to a fever.
Whilst Flensburg is currently third in the Bundesliga, Aragon is fifth in Asobal league.
HC Pivovarna Celje Lasko (SLO) vs. VfL Gummersbach (GER)
Two big names with long traditions on the international stage face each other in the second semi-final. RK Pivovarna Lasko Celje were winners of the EHF Champions League in 2004 – and the last winner of the king’s class not to come from Germany or Spain.
The arena in Celje is a well-known (and well-feared) place in the world of handball. After participating in nearly all EHF Champions League seasons since its commencement (with 2002/03 the only exception), Celje missed the qualification this season – but now have the chance to reach their second European Cup Final in their club’s history. After several top players left the club last season, a new team was formed, with young Slovenians and experienced players from other Balkan countries like the former EHF Champions League winners Dejan Peric (goalkeeper) or Petar Metlicic (right-back). Like their opponent Gummersbach against Bern Muri (Switzerland), Celje only won the quarter-final in the rematch at home after losing at Benfica (Portugal).
Gummersbach have won three straight European Cup competitions in the last three years, including two titles in the EHF Cup Winners’ Cup. In the German Bundesliga they are fighting against relegation, but on international ground the team from the Cologne area is much more successful. Due to the domestic problems, Gummersbach signed Macedonian national team goalkeeper Borko Ristovski after EHF EURO 2012. The games with Celje will be something special for their second goalkeeper Aljoza Rezar, who is Slovenian and lived for a long time close to Celje. Additional stars in the team of Bosnian coach Emir Kurtagic are Croatian international Vedran Zrnic and German pivot Patrick Wienczek.
TEXT: Björn Pazen
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