Men’s EHF Cup countdown – part 15: S. L. Benfica head coach has deeply analysed his team’s upcoming opponents and despite all challenges he sees a potential chance to reach the quarter-finals
S.L. Benfica see group phase as opportunity to develop
For Portuguese side S.L. Benfica the 2016/17 season already marks the 17th participation in any EHF European Cup competition.
Twice, in 2011 and 2016, they reached the Challenge Cup Final but lost on both occasions. However, the participation in the EHF Cup Group Phase is a first for the club from Lisbon.
In Group D, the seven-time domestic champions face MT Melsungen from Germany, Helvetia Anaitasuna from Spain and Cocks from Finland.
The goal is to advance to the knockout phase underlines head coach Mariano Ortega.
“Our expectations are to reach the quarter-finals. We know it will be difficult because we don’t have the experience of having played a group phase before and because we face high-quality opponents.
“However, we hope to finish on the second position and to overcome a high amount of competitive games.”
Ortega has had a look at all three opponents his team will play against.
“Melsungen are a club with little experience in European competitions, but they can count on players with a lot of quality. They play with a physically strong defence.
“Cocks are another physically strong team that plays with high intensity. Anaitasuna for the past couple of years have been fighting for domestic success. They count on a strong collective as well as their players’ individual quality.”
In Ortega’s opinion it is an advantage that his side is a part of the internationally well-known Benfica Lisbon football club.
“We are one of greatest clubs in the world and we have maximum demands, but we are aware that when it comes to handball the club is only growing.
“For us, it is very important to compete with the best teams and the best players to develop as a team as well as individually. Playing the EHF Cup Group Phase is ideal in this respect.”
S.L. Benfica (POR)
Qualification for the 2016/2017 EHF Cup Group Phase: Round 2: 31:26, 33:30 against Handball Kaerjeng (LUX), Round 3: 29:34, 24:18 against KS Azoty-Pulawy (POL)
Newcomers: Stefan Terzic (Naturhouse La Rioja), João Ferreira (Passos Manuel), David Pinto (Madeira SAD), Fábio Vidrago (ABC Braga), Luka Rakovic (RK Zagreb), Jernjej Papez (Saran)
Left the club: Javier Borragan (Bidasoa Irun), T. Ferro (Belenenses), Dragan Vrgoc, Hugo Freitas (Sp. Horta), Augusto Aranda (Madeira SAD)
Coach: Mariano Ortega (since July 2014)
Team captain: João Pais
Cup Winners’ Cup:
Round 3: 2012/13, 2013/14
Finalist: 2010/11, 2015/16
Quarter-final: 1993/94, 1997/98
Portuguese champions: 1962, 1975, 1982, 1983, 1989, 1990, 2008
Portuguese cup winners: 1985, 1986, 1987, 1990, 2011, 2016
TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
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