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11 days ago - 9/12/2017

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After Sporting CP from Portugal claimed the last spot as winners of the qualification tournament on Sunday, boarding for the group phase of the VELUX EHF Champions League 2017/18 season is complete.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary season of Europe’s premier competition, here are the most important Facts and Figures of the upcoming group phase and beyond:

0 times since the inauguration of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in 2010 have the champions defended their title. The last team to claim consecutive trophies was BM Ciudad Real in 2009.

0 teams are debutants of the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase in the 2017/18 season.

1 player has defended the title since the FINAL4 format was introduced in 2010: Ivan Cupic. The Croatian won the trophy in 2016 with Vive Tauron Kielce and one year later with Vardar Skopje.

1 draw will be held during the season – for the VELUX EHF FINAL4 Semi-finals in Cologne. All pairings of the Last 16 and quarter-finals are set by the rankings of the group phase.

1 person won the EHF Champions League as a player and a coach: Talant Dujshebaev. The current coach of Kielce won the competition in 1994 as a player for Santander (ESP) and in 2006, 2008 and 2009 as coach of Ciudad Real, before steering Kielce to their first trophy in 2016.

2 coaches have led two different teams to the EHF Champions League trophy: Icelandic-born Alfred Gislason (2002 SC Magdeburg, 2010 and 2012 THW Kiel) and Dujshebaev (2006, 2008, 2009 Ciudad Real, 2016 Vive Tauron Kielce).

3 Spanish coaches were part of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 2017: Raul Gonzalez (Vardar), Javier Sabaté (Veszprém) and Xavi Pascual (Barcelona).

4 (which means all) participants of the VELUX EHF FINAL 2017 have qualified for the group phase again: Vardar, PSG, Veszprém and Barcelona.

4 cross matches of the two top-ranked teams in Groups C and D will decide the two Last 16 spots from those groups in March.

4 times each, Thierry Omeyer (Montpellier 2003, Kiel 2007, 2010, 2012) and Uros Zorman (Celje 2004, Ciudad Real 2008 and 2009, Kielce 2016) have won the EHF Champions League, making them the most successful players still on court this season. Andrei Xepkin remains the individual record winner with seven trophies (six with Barcelona, one with Kiel).

5 former or current top scorers of the VELUX EHF Champions League are still on court in the 2017/18 season: Uwe Gensheimer (2010/11 – 118 goals for Rhein Neckar Löwen, 2016/17 – 115 goals for PSG), Momir Ilic (2014/15 – 114 goals, 2013/14 – 103 goals for Veszprém), Mikkel Hansen (2011/12 – 98 goals for AG Kobenhavn, 2015/16 – 141 goals for PSG), Nikola Karabatic (2006/07 – 89 goals for Kiel)

6 countries are represented by the previous 24 EHF Champions League champions: Spain (14 titles), Germany (six), FYR Macedonia, Poland, Slovenia and France (each one).

6 pairings will compose the Last 16, like in the previous season. The teams in the 3-6 positions of Groups A and B and those that win the Groups C+D play-offs will meet in the first knock-out stage.

7 former or current EHF Champions League champions representing a total of 15 trophies are part of the 2017/18 group phase: Vardar, Kielce, Barcelona, Kiel, Flensburg, Montpellier and Celje.

7 former or current IHF World Handball Players of the Year are part of the 28 squads contesting this Champions League season: Arpad Sterbik (2005/Vardar), Nikola Karabatic (2007, 2014, 2016/PSG), Thierry Omeyer (2008/PSG), Slawomir Szmal (2009/Kielce), Mikkel Hansen (2011, 2015/PSG), Daniel Narcisse (2012/PSG) and Domagoj Duvnjak (2013/Kiel). Kielce coach Talant Dujshebaev also received the award – on two occasions (1994, 1996).

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8 from eight times the LANXESS Arena has been sold out for the VELUX EHF FINAL4. The contract with the arena to host the event was extended until 2020.

8 times (1995-2000, 2011, 2015) FC Barcelona have won the EHF Champions League to be the record winner. In addition, they won the Champions Cup (forerunner of the Champions League) once.

14 times Spanish teams have won the EHF Champions League – Barcelona (eight), Ciudad Real (three), Santander, Irun and Portland (each one).

14 rounds will be played in Groups A and B until the completion of the group phase. Groups C and D will take the court for 10 rounds, followed by the play-offs (home and away matches) to decide their two Last 16 participants.

18 different nations (one less than one year ago) are represented by the 28 group phase participants. Germany and France have three clubs each. Spain, Denmark, Hungary, FYR Macedonia, Poland and Slovenia each have two. All nations were part of the 2016/17 group phase.  

24 Champions League participations in the 25 years since the start of the competition in 1993/94 make RK Zagreb the record holders ahead of Veszprém and Celje (23 participations each).

23 teams that were among the 28 group phase participants of the 2016/17 season have qualified for this stage again. Both Danish sides have changed, with Aalborg and Skjern taking the place of Bjerringbro-Silkeborg and TTH Holstebro, as well as the Portuguese (Sporting instead of UMinho) team. Leon replace La Rioja from Spain and Slovenia’s Velenje make their return.

20 matches is the maximum number participants of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 2018 will play in the new season. They will be on the Champions League court a minimum of 18 times.

28 teams are part of the group phase, split into eight teams each in Groups A and B and six teams each in Groups C and D.

55.58 goals were scored on average in all 208 matches of the VELUX EHF Champions League 2016/17 season. In 2015/16, the average was 57.03 goals.

115 goals were scored by PSG’s Uwe Gensheimer for him to finish as top scorer of the 2016/17 season.

204 matches will be carried out in the 2016/17 season of the VELUX EHF Champions League. After the four qualification games already staged, there will be 172 group matches, four Group C+D cross matches, 12 Last 16 games, eight quarter-finals and four matches at the VELUX EHF FINAL4. Last season there were 208 games in total, as two qualification tournaments were played.

11,560 goals were scored in the VELUX EHF Champions League 2016/17 season – 11,083 since the start of the group phase. In the 2015/16 season, a total of 11,522 were scored.

12,250 spectators in the match Zagreb vs Veszprém was the highest attendance in the VELUX EHF Champions League 2016/17 season prior to the VELUX EHF FINAL4.

20,000 fans are expected for the 2018 edition of the VELUX EHF FINAL4, which will be staged on May 26 and 27 in LANXESS arena, Cologne.

Author: Bjorn Pazen / cg