SEMI-FINAL PREVIEW: Portuguese teams are involved in both semi-finals of the Men's Challenge Cup.
Braga keen on improving last year's second place
Just like last season, the possibility of an all Portuguese final in the Men's Challenge Cup exists, and once again, ABC/UMinho and S.L. Benfica are the Portuguese teams which qualified for the semi-finals.
Benfica are receiving FyllingenBergen from Norway for the first leg this weekend, while Braga based ABC/UMinho take on HC Dukla Praha from the Czech Republic.
This tie will be the remake of the meeting between the two teams in Round 3 of the Challenge Cup last season. On that occasion, Benfica won both matches in a double header with 33:32 and 28:25.
Those two wins have not reduced Benfica coach Mariano Ortega's respect for Fyllingen in any way, though. "FyllingenBergen is a team with a lot of individual qualities and a typically Nordic team with good team tactics," Ortega tells eurohandball.com.
"In defence, the team has two systems, but the same principles – intensity and contact, allowing them to play fast breaks. In the attack, it is a team with good back players who can shoot from the distance, plus a good connection with the pivot and good wings.
"Our team is playing a lot of games (Championship and Cup) with a lot of physical stress, but we want to reach the finals of the Challenge Cup after being very close last year," Mariano Ortega adds.
FyllingenBergen coach Vidar Gjesdal is particularly impressed by Benfica's domestic results lately, where they are number four in the league. "We are prepared, it's a tough task in the semi-final, but at the same time, we believe we can send them out, as we played two tight matches against them last year.
"ABC/UMinho aim to win the Challenge Cup and to make this happen we have to overcome Dukla Praha in the semi-finals. After being close to winning the Challenge Cup last season, but losing the final under extremely difficult circumstances, we have even more motivation to win it this season," says head coach and former Portuguese international Carlos Resende.
Dukla Praha are travelling to Portugal as number one in the Czech league, but this does not keep head coach Jan Josef from making Braga favourites.
"Braga is a great team and favourites, but anyone can lose. Our opponents play super fast handball almost without technical errors, but we also know how to play fast. We need a 100% performance from all players and especially in our defence," says Jan Josef.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / es
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