INTERVIEW: The Czech left back speaks to eurohandball.com before his fifth straight appearance in the EHF Cup semi-final
Horak: Fans deserve to see the trophy stay at home
Having won EHF Cup trophy twice in his career, with his previous employer Frisch Auf Göppingen, 1.98 tall Czech left back Pavel Horak became one of the key players of Füchse Berlin defence this season. Having picked up injury at last year's EHF Cup Finals in Berlin, Horak hopes he can enjoy the tournament fully fit and lift the trophy in front of own fans.
eurohandball.com: This will be your personal fifth appearance among the EHF Cup top four teams in a row. How does it feel for you to take part again this season in Berlin?
Pavel Horak: It always feel special to take part in such tournament at home. Last year I could not enjoy it as much, because I was having problems with injuries, even during the Final four. Atmosphere will be great once again and the fans deserve to see the trophy stay at home. I won this trophy twice with Goppingen, but at that time final was played over two legs - home and away.
eurohandball.com: Do you feel the pressure is mounting and expectations are building up as the tournament is approaching?
Pavel Horak: At the moment I do not feel any pressure. Might be because we have DHB Pokal finals ahead of us this weekend and lot will depend on how we do there. If we succeed, we would have secured spot in European competitions for next season. Otherwise we still have chance in the league to finish in the top six, or we would have to win the EHF Cup. So lot will depend on the result of the DHB Pokal Final Four result this weekend. Winning the German cup would make us feel more relaxed and have free minds ahead of the EHF Cup finals.
eurohandball.com: Last year you failed to pass the semi-final against Szeged. Do you feel like favourites, having experience playing EHF Cup Finals at home last year?
Pavel Horak: I personally don’t feel like favourite. We know what to expect from the finals. Nowadays, when there is no Cup Winners' Cup to play for, there are even stronger teams in EHF Cup.
Our disadvantage might be home venue. Fans will expect us to lead in the game from the beginning and to lift the trophy this time, having second opportunity in a row at home. However when many fans will cheer for us, it can be big moral boost for us. So it is difficult to say.
eurohandball.com: You meet Gorenje Velenje on first matchday. What do you recall of the participants and how do you see your chances of going all the way?
Pavel Horak: We have played against Skjern. We lost the away game with them by five goals and won the home game by five goals. Teams are on same level. We lost against Hamburg away, but again beat them at home. We have not met Velenje before, but I am confident they are a strong side, otherwise, they would not have made their way through the competition. It will be extremely equal.
eurohandball.com: Last season was a nightmare for you, because of number of injuries you had to face. Is this season a sort of satisfaction for you personally?
Pavel Horak: This season looks much better from my perspective. In the beginning I had to undergo elbow surgery, but from that time my body works. I am doing everything I can to stay fit in the future. I do not get to play much in offence, I play in defence more than enough though. But my philosophy is, that if the team does well and I can help it, season is successful.
eurohandball.com: You recently played in EHF EURO 2016 qualifiers for Czech national team. Did those two wins against Switzerland and time spent with your Czech friends give you moral boost for the final weeks of the season?
Pavel Horak: We did not play our best against Switzerland. I had problems with my knee, but I hope that will be alright soon. I expected more from myself, I was limited by my body and my fitness. I have played as many matches after recovery from the elbow injury as never before, so that might be the reason.
TEXT: Tomas Cuncik / br
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