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1 month ago - 8/30/2019

Barça want the trophy more than ever

Last season, Barça wanted to bounce back from their early Last 16 elimination in 2017/18.

This season, the Spanish champions feel they have to make up for a mishap again. Barça played a flawless 2018/19 season - until the second half of their semi-final against HC Varder at the VELUX EHF FINAL4.

Barça were leading by seven goals (16:9), but the nightmare started after the break and Vardar came away the winners, 29:27.

The hurtful experience has made Barça hungrier for the title than ever before.

Three questions before the new season:

- So, what happened in Cologne?

A lack of reaction to Vardar’s comeback. Players started to make unusual mistakes, or didn’t take decisions at all. Barça missed someone who stepped up and acted as the leader on the court. This season, Luka Cindric could take up that role. His transfer was arranged way before the Cologne as the club thought that the team could need a player to lead. The VELUX EHF FINAL4 proved them right.

- What changes do Barça need?

Barça need to learn, individually and collectively, from their Cologne experience. Otherwise, the team had an outstanding season, winning all other trophies they could win: the Super Globe in October and all domestic titles. In the VELUX EHF Champions League they lost their opener against Rhein-Neckar Löwen and the first game after the World Championship, against Veszprém, but were otherwise dominant, also in the quarter-final against the finalists from the previous season, HBC Nantes.

- How much pressure do Barça face to lift the trophy?

Barça are always among the teams fighting for the top prizes in Europe. This season, the club has invested a lot in top players for all of their sports sections, including handball. The pressure to bring home the VELUX EHF Champions League trophy again is building. The quality of the team has further increased and expectations to win the trophy again, for the first time since 2015, are mounting having attracted world-class players like Aron Palmarsson and Luka Cindric in the meantime.

Under the spotlight: Luka Cindric

Luka Cindric will be in the limelight as one of the big transfers of the summer. Barça expect the Croat to be a leader, to be the one who makes the difference and contributes with his impressive skills in attack. Question remains how quickly he will adapt to his new environment. A line including Luka Cindric, Dika Mem and Aron Palmarsson looks very promising, to say the least.

Self-esteem

The dramatic end to last season, destroying the high hopes they had, has hurt the team. Barça will return fully focused and know they were probably the best team of last season up to and including the quarter-finals.

Fun fact

Fernando Barbeito, the multiple EHF Champions League winner with Barça and Portland San Antonio, is the new right hand of coach Xavi Pascual. The two know each other since they met in Barça’s youth teams. They made the first time at the same time and won the European club title in 1991. They want to win together again in 2020.

What the numbers say

Barça hold the record for most EHF Champions League wins - eight (1996-2000, 2005, 2011 and 2015), the two times with Xavi Pascual on the bench. They added another record last season, becoming the only team with seven participations in the VELUX EHF FINAL4.

Barça (ESP)

Qualified for VELUX EHF Champions League 2019/20: Spanish Champions

Newcomers: Luka Cindric (PGE Vive Kielce), Abel Serdio (Recoletas Atl. Valladolid)

Left the club: Gilberto Duarte (Montpellier HB), Yanis Lenne (Montpellier HB),
Kamil Syprzak (PSG), Nemanja Ilic (Tolouse)

Head coach: Xavier Pascual (since Febrary 2009)

Team captain: Victor Tomas

VELUX EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2019/20 season): 23
Winners (8): 1995/96, 1996/97, 1997/98, 1998/99, 1999/00, 2004/05, 2010/11, 2014/15
Final (3): 2000/01, 2009/10, 2012/13
Semi-final (4): 2007/08, 2013/14, 2016/17, 2018/19
Quarter-final (4): 2005/06, 2006/07, 2011/12, 2015/16
Last 16 (2): 2003/04, 2017/18
Main Round (1): 2008/09

Other EC records:

EHF Cup:
Winners: 2002/03
Runners-up: 2001/02

Cup Winners’ Cup:
Winners: 1993/94, 1994/95

European Champions Cup:
Winners: 1990/91

IHF Super Globe:
Winners: 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018

Spanish league:
26 titles (1969, 1973, 1980, 1982, 1986, 1988-92, 1996-2000, 2003, 2006, 2011-19)

Spanish cup:
23 titles

League cup:
14 titles

Author: Laia Coll / ew