EHF Cup countdown, number 9: Naturhouse La Rioja (ESP)
Four seasons ago, Naturhouse La Rioja entered the international club stage and had a brilliant debut.
In their first two seasons in the EHF Cup, the Spaniards reached the semi-final, so it was no major surprise that the team from the famous wine region made it to the Group Phase of the newly formed EHF Cup after eliminating Serbian club RK Vojvodina in the third round.
In the first half of this season, La Rioja were hit hard by a number of injuries, with former Spanish national team player Rubén Garabaya Arenas out for at least nine months and Ales Abrao Silva for four months.
Pedro Rodríguez Álvarez, Unai Arrieta Aizpurua, and Gurutz Aguinagalde Aquizu were also out of action for a long time, but the club hopes that they will be back in the team for the start of the Group Phase.
Despite the multiple injuries, Naturhouse La Rioja hope to finish fifth in the Spanish league this season and qualify for the EHF Cup again, as well as reaching the quarter-final in this seasons EHF Cup, but manager Jaime Luis González Gutiérrez knows that it will be a tough task and expects “hard matches against strong opponents.”
Team captain Gurutz Aguinagalde Aquizu has more optimism in his team’s chances at home.
“I hope to win at least all home matches and enjoy this new EHF Cup.”
Three questions to coach Jesús Javier González Fernández:
What are your expectations for the Group Phase of the EHF Cup, concerning your objectives and your group opponents?
Jesús Javier González Fernández: I think the favourite teams in our group are Frisch Auf Göppingen and RK Cimos Koper. Our target is to win all home matches and to get some surprises outside of our arena in Logroño.
What does the participation in the Group Phase of the EHF Cup mean to you and your club?
Jesús Javier González Fernández: Our participation in the Group Phase of the EHF Cup means a great success for a small club like we are because this new competition is very similar to the Champions League and we are sure to have a fantastic competition.
What teams are your personal favourites to reach the EHF Cup Finals?
Jesús Javier González Fernández: Rhein-Neckar Löwen, KIF Kolding, HBC Nantes, and Frisch Auf Göppingen.
Naturhouse La Rioja (ESP) - Group A
The road to the Group Phase:
Round 3: 28:19, 22:26 against RK Vojvodina
Coach: Jesús Javier González Fernández, since 2007
Newcomers: Rafael Dacosta Capote, Niko Mindeguia Elizaga, Jorge Luis Paván López, David Cuartero Sánchez, Pedro Fuentes Sánchez Migallón, Álvaro Bozalongo Ruiz.
Left the club: Ismael Juárez Mínguez (Academia Octavio, ESP), Jorge García Vega (end of career), Alex Dujshebaev (BM Aragón, ESP), Nikola Prce (unknown), Filip Kalman (Academia Octavio, ESP)
Biggest successes in EHF European Cup competitions:
EHF Cup: 2 appearances – semi-finalists: 2009/10, 2010/11
Jesús Javier González Fernández
Born on 2 February 1972
Former Clubs: Cuatro Rayas BM Valladolid (ESP).
Coaching achievements: six times Spanish youth champion
Rubén Garabaya Arenas
Born on 15 September 1978
Former Clubs: BM Corvera (ESP), Reale Ademar de León (ESP), BM Cangas (ESP), Cuatro Rayas BM Valladolid (ESP), FC Barcelona Intersport (ESP)
Arenas has had a lot of success both at club and international level. The line player won the Spanish King Cup in 1999, 2003, 2009 and 2010, the Asobal Cup in 2010, and the Spanish Super Cup in 2009 and 2010. At European level, he won the EHF Cup Winners’ Cup in 1999 with Ademar Leon.
With the Spanish national team, Arenas won an Olympic bronze medal in 2008, the World Championship in 2005, a bronze medal at the 2011 World Championship, and a silver medal at the EHF EURO 2006.
Gurutz Aguinagalde Aquizu
Born on 26 October 1977
Former Clubs: Elgorriaga Bidasoa Irún (ESP).
The 36 year-old goalkeeper has been Naturhouse La Rioja for each of their European campaigns and is the brother of Spanish national team line player Julen Aguinagalde Aquizu Success as player: Spanish King Cup winner in 1996, Spanish Super Cup winner in 1996, Cup Winners' Cup winner in 1997.
Find more information on Naturhouse La Rioja here
The schedule of the Men´s EHF Cup Group Phase can be found here
TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor