22.11.2017, 04:50
Saracevic can end his personal Barcelona curse

MIDWEEK PREVIEW: Zagreb’s new coach has already lost three Champions League finals against the club he faces in this first tie as boss


Saracevic can end his personal Barcelona curse

Both sides lost their VELUX EHF Champions League Group Matches in Round 8, and for one man it meant the end of his job: RK PPD Zagreb let go coach Kasim Kamenica after the defeat to Nantes.

Now Zlatko Saracevic shall steer the Croats to the Last 16 - but the mission doesn't have an easy start as they come up against FC Barcelona in the opener of Round 9 of the VELUX EHF Champions League.

•    Zagreb have not won any of nine home matches against Barcelona.
•    This duel has been the final pairing of the EHF Champions League three times.
•    Barcelona have won only one of four away matches so far.
•    Zagreb have only taken one point on home court in this VELUX EHF Champions League season.


GROUP A:

HC Prvo plinarsko drustvo Zagreb (CRO) vs FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP)
Thursday 23 November, 19:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

Zagreb are without wins after eight matches, but only two points below sixth position, which would mean a ticket to the Last 16.

But the outcome was not enough for the Croats, as they just parted ways with their coach Kasim Kamenica, replacing him with former player and assistant coach Zlatko Saracevic.

He will have his debut on the bench on Thursday against mighty FC Barcelona.

Saracevic’s personal memories of matches against the upcoming opponent are extremely negative: as a player he was part of the Badel Zagreb team, which lost three straight EHF Champions League finals against the Catalans in 1998, 1999 and 2000, even though he was Champions League top scorer in the 1998/99 and 1999/2000 seasons.

His fate of losing Champions League finals continued in 2002, when he and his new club Veszprem were defeated by Magdeburg. Now he can take his individual revenge against Barcelona, in his new position.

Maybe it is Saracevic’s and Zagreb’s advantage that Barcelona had their Liga ASOBAL derby against their neighbours from Granollers on Tuesday, only 48 hours after the 28:31 Champions League defeat in Szeged and another 48 hours prior to their match at the Croatian capital.

Never in the history of the competition have Zagreb managed to beat Barcelona on home court; the balance is eight defeats and one draw.

Funnily enough, the only win in 20 duels so far happened at Palau Blaugrana in February 2012 (30:29).

Barcelona won the first leg in this season 33:22 three weeks ago, when Aron Palmarsson had his debut for the Catalans.

The match against Barcelona will for Zagreb be the first without Stipe Mandalinic.

The currently top scorer of the Croatian side (second ranked in the overall list by 49 goals) has been lured by the German side Füchse Berlin.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / bc


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