Strlek: “Veszprém finally want to be on the throne”
In 2016, Manuel Strlek was part of the Kielce team that won the EHF Champions League.
In 2019, the Croatian left wing returned to the final with his new club Veszprém, but this time lost to Vardar.
This month, Strlek gets another chance to help Veszprém win their first title, as the Hungarian champions are appearing at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 2020.
After scoring 54 goals for Veszprém in 2018/19, Strlek netted 42 times and was named All-star Team left wing in the shortened 2019/20 season.
Strlek and Veszprém play their dress rehearsal for the VELUX EHF FINAL4 on Thursday (10 December), when they meet group B leaders Barça, another contender in Cologne, in the Match of the Week.
In this Interview of the Week with eurohandball.com, Strlek talks about:
eurohandball.com: What are your biggest challenges in the current season?
Manuel Strlek: It is a tough and challenging season. You cannot really prepare for everything as you do not know what will happen tomorrow. The pandemic is making it hard the whole year, with all the testing. If you have to go in isolation, you have three games the next week. It is really hard to give your absolute best, without training, without practicing the tactics. This situation demands the utmost from us. However, the organisation and we players are professionals, so we have to deal with the circumstances.
eurohandball.com: How does the team overcome the problems?
Manuel Strlek: We only lost to Aalborg Håndbold, the team is doing great. We have the chance to advance from the group as the first or second-ranked team. There are some very important matches ahead of us, but the squad and the management are confident. I think this confidence helps us to deal with the problems.
Manuel Strlek: The key to success is easy, you need to win (laughing). Everybody here understands that. We keep our focus on the main reason why we are here: to win everything.
eurohandball.com: Last season you were voted into to the All-star Team. Has your way of playing changed?
Manuel Strlek: I would not say that I have changed my game too much. The tactics stayed more or less the same. Obviously, there are new parts in our game and we prepare for each opponent differently. I am very thankful for being nominated and chosen for the All-star Team. I am really proud of that. Although it is a great achievement, handball is a team sport. There are always three, four players who will score more than the others. Last season, I was one of them and I took my chances. So, huge thanks go to my mates as well.
It is going to be really hard for us, we are among the top four clubs of Europe. We have 25 percent chance to win, however, Paris, Kiel and Barcelona are experienced and very talented teams. But in Cologne everything is possible.
eurohandball.com: How do you rate the other three teams at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 this month?
Manuel Strlek: It is going to be really hard for us, we are among the top four clubs of Europe. We have 25 percent chance to win, however, Paris, Kiel and Barcelona are experienced and very talented teams. But in Cologne everything is possible.
eurohandball.com: What should happen for Veszprém to win the trophy?
Manuel Strlek: We need to play without tactical mistakes and not allow the opponents to score easy goals. We need to be ready and focused, so we can show our best in the game. The whole club finally wants to be on the throne at the VELUX EHF FINAL4.
eurohandball.com: First up are Kiel in semi-final. Your thoughts?
Manuel Strlek: Against Kiel, it will be very tough. Last season and this year we had great games against each other. You can never underestimate them. We need to force them into making mistakes and use those opportunities. If we get to the final, anything can happen.
Manuel Strlek: It is not easy as we play in every second or third day. When we finish with the first part of the current season, the team will have seven to 10 days to prepare. We will use this time to improve our tactics, to get to know as much as possible about our opponents and to get ready physically.
Manuel Strlek: I hope for a short celebration as I will join the national team for the World Championship 2021 in January. There is no time to rest. This is the life of a handball player, but only the trophy counts, so I hope that we can bring it home.