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07.09.2016, 17:30◄ last page     

PREVIEW: The ASOBAL league is looking in better shape, but there is still one team in a league of their own

FC Barcelona Lassa and 15 teams

Three years ago, when Atletico de Madrid (formerly Ciudad Real, three-time EHF Champions League winners) disappeared, the question on everybody’s lips was: Will FC Barcelona have any opponent in the ASOBAL League?

That question has been answered emphatically. Since then, the team lead by Xavier Pascual has the league and all matches in the league. Now the question is whether any team in Spain can stand up and beat Barcelona.

The ASOBAL league 2016/17 season will open on Wednesday 7 September with one of the more special matches of the season: FC Barcelona Lassa against Fraikin BM Granollers at Palau Blaugrana, the Catalan derby.

Will the unbeaten streak continue?

Barcelona, who recently won the ASOBAL Cup Winners’ Cup against Helvetia Anaitasuna, have won six leagues in a row, without losing a match since May 2013 and 15 consecutive domestic titles.

Barcelona is the clear favourite to win again the league despite a number of changes within the squad and many young players coming on board. They may still be in another league, but their superiority might not be as clear this season.

The league has increased in talent with many young talented players spread throughout the clubs.

“I don't know if we can win all the matches again, we will fight for that, but I'm absolutely sure every season is more and more difficult. The level is getting better,” says Xavier Pascual, whose team has consistently shown the capacity to maintain concentration and work hard regardless of their opposition. 

The contenders

Naturhouse La Rioja, second for the last three seasons, Abanca ADEMAR León and EHF Cup Finals participants Granollers are the three main contenders to finish in second to fourth positions and qualify for Europe. 

They have competitive squads to produce good results in Spanish competition and also in Europe. However, the level paying field of the league, besides Barcelona, means that any team can win or lose any match, which is certain to make for an interesting season.

Frigoríficos Morrazo Cangas, Villa de Aranda and EHF Cup participants Helvetia Anaitasuna will also be looking to surprise and fight for the higher positions after developing strong squads.

This season also sees the return of historical cities with handball tradition, Valladolid and 1994/95 EHF Champions League winners Bidasoa, to the top flight.

It will come as no surprise if at the end of the season FC Barcelona are crowned champions in emphatic style, but the important news is that the ASOBAL league is improving its level and Spanish handball is recovering its health.

Selected matches from the ASOBAL league will be streamed live on ehfTV.com throughout the season, beginning with the Catalan derby between FC Barcelona Lassa and Fraikin BM Granollers on Wednesday 7 September at 20:30 CET, followed by three more matches on Saturday 10 September.

TEXT: Laia Coll / cor

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