20200222 Rkkrim Ljepoja
EHF Champions League

Krim eye knockout stage in special season

EHF / Danijela Lemaić

RK Krim Mercator are a well-known name in the EHF Champions League, with a rich history in the competition. The 2001 and 2003 champions have missed that level of success in recent years, with numerous changes, but have still reached the main round in each of the past four seasons.

Past achievements

Main facts:

  • entering 26th straight Champions League season after winning their 25th domestic title in Slovenia
  • the two-time champions (2000/01, 2002/03) finished fifth in main round group 2 in 2019/20
  • head coach Uros Bregar is starting his fifth season in charge at the club, after joining in 2016 at age 36
  • three of Krim’s top-scoring players in the Champions League 2019/20 season have left: Alja Varagic (62 goals), Nina Zulic (54) and Polona Baric (33)
  • the squad is reinforced with six newcomers

Most important question: What are Krim’s objectives with the changed squad?

The 2020/21 season will be Krim's 26th consecutive season in the EHF Champions League. The club have had a couple of difficult years and are aiming to get back on track. Their objectives for the new season are clear: wishing to show their best performances.

“Due to our long-term strategy, which is predicting the club to be among the best clubs in Europe in the following couple of years, our objective is the quarter-finals,” says club manager Ivanovic. Team captain Nina Zabjek adds:

“We will try to conquer all the opponents in the group. We want to try to surprise and to represent one of the youngest teams in the Champions League in the best way.”

Krim will face Metz, Rostov-Don, Vipers, Esbjerg, FTC-Rail Cargo, CSM Bucuresti and BBM Bietigheim in the group phase. The opening match of the season is scheduled for 12 September, against Vipers.

Krim have changed their roster for the new season, as three of their most important players in the Champions League 2019/20 have left. Alja Varagic (62 goals) is on maternity leave, Nina Zulic (54 goals) found a new club and Polona Baric (33 goals) retired. Bregar’s team has been reinforced with seven newcomers who are going to be great assets, especially those with Champions League experience. The team from the Slovenian capital continues to work with young talents.

Under the spotlight: Valentina Klemencic

The young and talented Slovenian line player was born in Kranj in 2002. Before Krim, she played for RK Naklo. The 2019/20 season, with Krim, was Klemencic’s first Champions League experience and she showed she is one to watch for the future.

At only 17 years old, Klemencic was named rookie of round 4 in 2019/20 and went on to net a total of 23 times in the season. She gained her experience through the youth and junior national teams. Her talent, persistence and hard work were also recognised in the Slovenia national team. As a result, she was part of the team at the 2019 World Championship.

The now 18-year-old will comprise part of an efficient trio on the line, with experienced Slovenian Natasa Ljepoja and Croatian newcomer Anna Dobric.

How they rate themselves

“We believe that we have composed a very good team – a mixture of experienced individuals accompanied and young talents. We believe that the team will be able to learn to work together as one. A completely different season lies ahead of us and we will give our best,” says club manager Ivanovic.

Krim will rely on experience from past seasons and on the strength and vitality of the youngsters for the perfect combination.

Did you know?

Last season, Krim played most of their matches in Kodeljevo Hall. After some years there, they will change their home court this season, and will return to the famous Arena Stozice.

What the numbers say

This season will be a special one for Krim Mercator, as it marks the 20th anniversary of their first Champions League trophy. In the two-leg final, they defeated Viborg and celebrated in front of 3,000 fans in Ljubljana.

Krim will give special attention to this during the season, with the main event at the end of 2020/21 when they will gather everyone who was involved in the club’s biggest success.

Newcomers and left the club

Newcomers: Maja Svetik (ZRK Ajdovscina), Samara Da Silva Viera (SCM Ramnicu Valcea), Oceane Sercien-Ugolin (Paris 92), Jovana Risovic (Podravka Vegeta), Matea Pletikosic (Buducnost), Branka Konatar (Buducnost), Anna Dobric (RK Zelene Doline)

Left the club: Polona Baric (retirement), Tamara Mavsar (retirement), Alja Varagic (maternity leave), Nina Zulic (Kastamonu), Iza Bon Brzin (Celje), Tjasa Polajnar Vesligaj, Marianka Rebicova, Yuliia Snopova, Anotnia Mamić, Nives Klobucar (FSV Mainz 05)

Past achievements

- EHF Champions League

Participations (including 2020/21 season): 26
Winners (2): 2000/01, 2002/03
Runners-up (3): 1998/99, 2003/04, 2005/06
Semi-final (1): 2012/13
Quarter-final (4): 1996/97, 1997/98, 2004/05, 2006/07
Main round (10): 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/19, 2019/20
Last 16 (1): 1995/96
Group matches (4): 1999/00, 2001/02, 2007/08, 2015/16

- Other

Champions Trophy: two titles (2002/03, 2003/04)

Slovenian league: 25 titles (1995-2015, 2017-2020)
Slovenian Cup: 26 titles (1993-1997, 1999-2019)

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