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28.08.2016, 20:50◄ last page     

VELUX EHF Champions League club countdown: 24 days to go - Chekhovskie Medvedi are in a league of their own domestically, but their young talents are aiming to progress in Europe

Perennial Russian champions targeting playoffs

Can you think of clubs in the VELUX EHF Champions League with the strength and tradition to win 15 consecutive national titles?

Barcelona perhaps; maybe Kiel or Veszprem? No, Only Croatian side RK Zagreb have matched the phenomenal feat of Russian powerhouse Chekhovskie Medvedi.

The team of coaching legend Vladimir Maximov took their 15th straight title in the 2015/16 season. Since 2002, no team could beat the “Bears of Chekhov”, despite the best efforts of the likes of St. Petersburg and Perm.

Chekhov have come close in recent years to replicate their success internationally, winning the Cup Winners’ Cup in 2006 and being part of the very first VELUX EHF FINAL4 in 2010.

71-year-old coach Maximov’s main task is to develop Russian youngsters in his team. “As the Russian championship is a weak competition, it is highly important for us and mainly the players to have international opponents in the Champions League. Without these matches there would be no development,” says Maximov, who has lead the team for 16 years.

The Medvedi squad has not changed much over the summer, two Evgenis (Prokopiew and Dzemin) arrived, while Anton Otrezow left. For Maximov, Montpellier and La Rioja are the toughest obstacles on the way to the Group C/D playoffs. In the previous season, Medvedi never really challenged for a spot in the knockout stages.

Chekhovskie Medvedi (RUS)

Qualification for the 2016/2017 VELUX EHF Champions League season: Russian champions

Newcomers:  Evgeni Prokopiew (St. Petersburg), Evgeni Dzemin (UOR Moscow)

Left the club: Anton Otrezow (Dinamo Victor Stavropol)

Coach: Vladimir Maximov (since 2000)

Team captain: Dmitry Kovalev

Opponents in the group phase: La Rioja, Metalurg, Montpellier, Elverum and winner of the qualification tournament 1 in Group C

VELUX EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2016/2017 season): 16
Semi-finalist (1): 2009/10 (fourth ranked at the VELUX EHF FINAL4)
Quarter-finalist (2): 2008/09, 2010/11
Last 16 (3): 2004/05, 2006/07, 2012/13
Group Phase (7): 2001/02, 2002/03, 2003/04, 2005/06, 2011/12, 2014/15, 2015/16

Other EC records:

Cup Winners’ Cup
Winner: 2005/06

Russian champions: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

Russian cup winner: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor

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