|01.09.2016, 16:10||◄ last page|
FEATURE: Velenje prepare to compete for a VELUX EHF Champions League return in qualification
Ambitious Wasps bid for Champions League return
Slovenian handball could experience one of its most glorious seasons if Gorenje Velenje can top VELUX EHF Champions League qualification Group 1 and make it back to the European elite after two seasons away.
If the Slovenian team are to join their more successful rival Celje among Europe’s finest, their path would take them through defeating the likes of Tatran Presov, Red Boys and Cocks, to acquire a place in VELUX EHF Champions League Group C.
However, playing against the odds is not something Gorenje are shy of. Au contraire, the team affectionately known as the “Wasps” have made such audacious achievements in the past.
Accomplishments such as defeating the dominant PSG in the first of their two VELUX EHF Last 16 encounters in 2014, is just something that comes naturally for the battling Slovenians.
Not only were they able to shock just about any rival, but also do it with a fast-paced, free-flowing game that became synonymous with the club in recent years.
However, for the Slovenian runners-up work begins in earnest starting this weekend as they strive to return to the VELUX EHF Champions League and challenge for a place in the Last 16 once more.
Regardless, Gorenje are set to make their name be heard loud and clear. They made their mark in the EHF Cup in the meantime, having played at the final tournament in 2015, in addition to their final appearance from 2008/09.
Having lost several key players at the end of the season, Gorenje were very busy during the summer transfer window. After Mario Sostaric, Stas Skube, brothers Benjamin and Senjamin Buric, as well as Michal Szyba left the club, Gorenje had to make sure their effort is backed up with high quality roster.
Having secured the signatures of the seasoned right wing Matjaz Brumen, as well as Serbian playmaking maestro Luka Mitrovic, the Wasps have filled vacancies in key positions, while managing to pull a coup by adding the industrious line player Alem Toskic to their ranks.
The signing of Toskic, who has had one of the most productive seasons of his career last term with Vardar, was probably the most shocking summer move; and if his last season’s performances are anything to go by, the experienced Serbian is aging like a fine wine, and will present a key piece to coach Marko Sibila’s puzzle.
However, the squad at Velenje boasted some impressive talent even before these truly inspired signings.
Having the Slovenian national team members Nejc Cehte and Gregor Potocnik in the backcourt, while Klemen Ferlin guards the goal was always a good base to build upon.
With everything said, this Velenje team has a strong chance of making their VELUX EHF Champions League dream a reality.
TEXT: Nemanja Savic / cor