“Finally some handball” - Players react to the group phase draw
Following the EHF Champions League 2020/21 draw event on Wednesday evening in Vienna, Buducnost’s Andrea Lekic, Dortmund’s Kelly Dulfer, Györ’s Amandine Leynaud and Barça’s Gonzalo Perez de Vargas shared their thoughts on their group phase opponents on the ehfcl Instagram account in a live chat with ehfTV commentator Chris O’Reilly.
Following the premature halting of action earlier this year, due to the global health crisis, the joy of even thinking about the new season was clear to see in Andrea Lekic’s face.
“Finally some handball, I am totally excited and happy to share some thoughts about the draw.”
Her new club Buducnost were placed in group B alongside her former club and reigning champions Györ as well as newcomers and returning clubs in the form of Borussia Dortmund, CSKA and Odense.
“Everyone knows Györ are favourites in the group, we have some newcomers and I am very interested to see how they look – I do not know too much about them. I have seen Borussia but not CSKA and with Odense, I know the players but have not paid much attention to their system of play, so it is going to be interesting for us. I also have a new club, so everything is new.”
The Serbian playmaker has a wealth of experience in Europe’s top flight and is a fan of the competitions new playing system.
“I think it is great we are going to have a new system and it will be very interesting and intense. We are going to have much more interesting results. It will be new for us and I expect many surprises, everyone will be able to take some points from the favourites.”
Lekic’s new side will be among the favourites in group B and she is fully aware of the culture she is joining once she arrives in Podgorica.
“I have played against them for many years, so know their system and I hope I will adapt well there. I am expecting great results because expectations have to be high.
“I think it is the right move. Playing for Buducnost and wearing the jersey means you need to fight like a lion there.”
Newcomers ready to hit top gear
One of the two newcomers to this season’s DELO EHF Champions League is Borussia Dortmund. Although the German club will take their first steps at the elite level, their Dutch star Kelly Dulfer is well-aware of what awaits.
“It is a really tough group, Györ is a big favourite in this group, but every team could win against each other. For us, it is the first time in the competition and we are really excited to play against these good teams.”
It was a particularly good season for Dulfer, not only helping her new club to the top of German handball but also winning the World Championship with the Netherlands. With eight Dutch players in the Dortmund team, a similar style of handball can be expected.
“I did not expect things last season would work out so well, so quickly with this new group. We want to play fast handball with a lot of counter attacks and score a lot of easy goals as we do with the Dutch team.”
Dulfer has experience at this level with Kobenhavn and based on that, she is “happy to play in Buducnost again, it always a nice and very different atmosphere there.”
“So exciting to start again”
Although she has experienced everything the sport has to offer, the novelty of a new season on the horizon is not lost on Györ goalkeeper Amandine Leynaud.
“I think it will be so exciting to start again, everyone has been waiting to play a Champions League game again.”
Leynaud joined the chat from Györ’s training camp as the reigning champions began pre-season training last week.
“We are at Lake Balaton and it is really nice to see everyone and feel the ball again. It is the best feeling to play again.”
In line with Andrea Lekic’s view that there will be surprises in this new competition format, Leynaud is well-aware of the dangers posed.
“The new playing system will be very different for us, everyone will be fighting for the first two places and it will be exciting to see how it goes.
“It will be very important to win in every game to be able to finish in the top positions and reach directly the quarter-finals, but there are a lot of good teams there.”
“Fighting all through the year”
Barça goalkeeper Gonzalo Perez de Vargas’ attention was on two particular opponents in group B of the EHF Champions League Men, Kiel and Veszprém, two teams which will also be competing in Cologne this December.
“It is a really tough group but the other one is not easier. Interestingly, three out of four contenders for the FINAL4 are in the same group, so we will be fighting all through the year.
Striking the same tone as his fellow players in the live chat, the star shot-stopper sees the draw as a big step towards the new season becoming a reality.
“It has been a tough few months, but things are getting easier since sport has come back into our lives. I am at home with my family in Toledo now and enjoying it, but looking forward to returning to Barcelona and getting back together at the end of July.
“Having the schedule and the calendar means a lot right now for us, to feel we have everything back on track.”
Due to the club’s domestic campaign, they will wait a while longer before returning to training, but Perez de Vargas’ mind is already set on the season to come.
“Other teams are starting to train now, but as usual Barça will be the last to restart and get back together, but it is good to see we have taken one step closer to playing.
”Our goal is always to win all the games, knowing that a top spot gives us a kind of prize of advancing to the quarter-finals and as we have seen with what happened last season, being one of the top clubs in the group can mean something more.”