Gómez gunning for history at the TruckScout24 EHF FINAL4

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EHF / Adrian Costeiu

Until last season, when Barça took a 37:35 win on penalties against Barlinek Industria Kielce, no team in history managed to win the title in back-to-back seasons in the TruckScout24 EHF FINAL4 era in the European premium competition.

Now, the Spanish powerhouse has the chance to seal another historic achievement – three titles in a row, and not for the first time. Barça are also the only team to have previously achieved this, winning five titles between 1996 and 2000.

Their last title of that outstanding run was secured when the current coach, Carlos Ortega, was still a player. At that time right wing Aleix Gómez, a player born and bred in Barcelona, coming through the state-of-the-art youth system of the Spanish team, was only three years old.

Gómez has blossomed into one of the best right wings in the Machineseeker EHF Champions League and in European handball, winning back-to-back All-star Team berths in 2021 and 2022, while also sealing the top goal-scorer title in the previous season, with 104 goals.

This season Gómez has been less consistent, due to an Achilles tendon injury which saw him out of Spain’s national team for the 2023 IHF Men’s World Championship. But he remained a key contributor to Barça’s success.

“We are here in Cologne, in the EHF FINAL4, and we always want to compete. There are only two games left in the season, we want to win them both, we were here in the last seasons, we know how tough it is and we just want to finish the season on a high,” says Gómez.

Indeed, Gómez knows what it takes to become ruthless in this scenario. No player scored more goals than him in Cologne over the last two seasons, with 35 goals.

That puts the right wing, who has scored a total of 57 goals at the EHF FINAL4 in his career, in prime position to overtake all-time EHF FINAL4 top scorer Kiril Lazarov this year. Lazarov netted 68 goals at the final tournament in his career.

But Gómez will never admit to chasing personal records, and it has always been Barça’s teamwork and consistency which have stood out over the past years. A team relying on individual performances will never complete a season where the title is won by securing 20 wins in 20 matches. Nor it will win 48 out of their last 53 games in the European premium competition.

These are the mind-boggling numbers which Barça constantly put up, delivering vintage season after vintage season and consistently boasting the best attack of the Champions League.

In the 2022/23 season so far, Barça have scored 34.8 goals per game, improving their performance from last season by roughly four goals per game and coming close to their record-setting 2020/21 season, when they scored 36 goals per game.

“The season has been good to us. We are still unbeaten, but everything will be decided in Cologne. Therefore, it is not the time to stand still, we need to keep our form and put everything we have still in the tank for the last two games,” adds the right wing.

After a strong start to the season, Gómez was hampered by his injury, but still managed to score 55 goals, the third highest number of goals from any Barça player this season.

Provided he ups the tempo as he always does at the EHF FINAL4, the right wing is still going to be a key player for the Spanish side, who are eyeing their third title in a row and also their fourth final in a row, after the one lost against THW Kiel in December 2020.

Another German opponent is now sitting between Barça and another trophy – and the Spanish powerhouse will know they have only won two of their six games played in Cologne against German teams.

And it is not just any German opponent. SC Magdeburg won the last two IHF Men’s Super Globe finals against Barça, 33:28 in 2021 and 41:39, after extra time, in 2022, therefore the current German champions know a thing or two about causing an upset.

In those two matches, Gómez scored 17 goals. Can he do it again this time?

“Listen, there is not a team that we can choose in the EHF FINAL4. There are only four sides left, the top four teams this season, it is pointless to choose one to be your opponent. The lesson is simple: go there and win. Otherwise, if you think too much, you will lose,” concludes Gómez.

Photos © Lau Nielsen, Henrik Hansen, Victor Salgado, OTP Bank-Pick Szeged

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