Five things to remember from the 2020/21 season
The curtain has come down on the EHF Champions League Men 2020/21 season, which saw Barça beat Aalborg Håndbold in the final at the EHF FINAL4 on Sunday to lift the trophy for the first time since 2015.
While the favourites ended up winning the title, the season has produced a handful of storylines worth reflecting on.
Here are five takeaways on the day after the night before:
Perfect season for Barça
The saying ‘you win some, you lose some’ doesn’t apply to Barça this season. Last season, they only lost the very first match (group phase opener against MOL-Pick Szeged) and the very last (final against THW Kiel), this season they remained perfect throughout their entire campaign. It does not get any better than this. RK Celje Pivovarna Laško were the only team this season to limit their defeat to just a single goal, most opponents got steamrolled as they could not find a solution to stop their crazy attack, which scored more than 40 goals on five occasions. Even at the EHF FINAL4, where Barça had struggled in the past season, they kept their composure this time. Winning all matches in a single EHF Champions League season had not been done before. The bar is set very high now.
Aalborg, this season’s surprise
Few regarded Aalborg contenders to go all the way to the final when the season started in September. “I would have told you that you were crazy if you told me that,” René Antonsen said after the final. Yet, they did, growing their confidence game after game. The turning point was probably when they defeated Telekom Veszprém HC in Hungary in a group game late November. Any team capable of doing that can start looking for the stars. And with their big-name arrivals this and next summer, including Aron Palmarsson, Jesper Nielsen and Mikkel Hansen, Aalborg’s next visit to LANXESS arena will not be regarded as big a surprise anymore.
PSG have to settle for third place once more
It seems like PSG have got themselves subscribed to third-place finishes at EHF FINAL4 events. For the fourth time in five visits, the French side lost the semi-final but won the 3/4 placement match. And the one time they did win their semi, they stumbled in the final – in 2017 against Vardar. And 2021 was no exception, which left their Danish star Mikkel Hansen still aiming for his first EHF Champions League trophy despite seven appearances at the EHF FINAL4 in his career. With a roster that should remain more or less the same for next season, PSG will just have another go in 2021/22.
Motor and Meshkov: Eastern Europe eyes EHF FINAL4
No club from either Ukraine or Belarus had been in the EHF Champions League quarter-final before. This had to change this year with HC Motor and HC Meshkov Brest playing each other in the play-offs in April. Brest came out on top, mainly because of a great second leg at home. Both teams posed a real threat to powerhouses from all over Europe, as PSG, Lomza Vive Kielce, HBC Nantes and SG Flensburg-Handewitt all lost points travelling to Eastern Europe.
Flensburg came up short in the quarter-final… again
Will Flensburg ever visit Cologne again? They likely will as they are too good not to, but fact is they have not showed up in LANXESS arena since that flen-sational triumph in 2014. Up until the quarter-final stage, the lights were all green for coach Maik Machulla and his team, winning their group ahead of PSG and Kielce. But battling for a place at the EHF FINAL4, they went down once again in the quarter-final, getting edged by eventual finalists Aalborg by a single goal over two legs (55:54), with the damage done with that six-goal defeat in the first leg in Denmark. What will it take to see Flensburg again in the semi-finals?