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04.09.2016, 17:00◄ last page     

VELUX EHF Champions League countdown – 17 days to go: Montpellier Handball (FRA). Former Champions League winners want to go one step further than last season.

Montpellier want top eight finish

Despite the ever-growing strength of Paris Saint-Germain, Montpellier are the only French EHF Champions League winners. 13 years ago, they beat Portland in the finals, and two of those heroes are still part of the current squad: Team captain Michael Guigou and coach Patrice Canayer, who has been at the helm since 1994.

In the 2015/16 season, Montpellier finished up as runners-up of the French league, but managed to snatch away two trophies from PSG by winning the French cup and the French league cup. To take at least one domestic title is one for the objectives for the upcoming season. In addition, the 2014 EHF Cup finalist want to go one step further in the Champions League, and proceed to the quarter-finals, after being eliminated in the Last 16 last season.

Canayer strengthened the squad by signing French international Valentin Porte, who was part of the Olympic Games All-star Team in Rio as best right back and took home a silver medal. The Slovenian Olympian Miha Zvizej arrived in from Fenix Toulouse.

While one Slovenian came, two others left Montpellier: right wing Dragan Gajic (now Veszprem) and powerful line player Matej Gaber, who joined another Hungarian side, Pick Szeged.

In addition, Montpellier have changed their goalkeeper by signing the Swiss talent Nikola Portner, while Arnaud Siffert left to their domestic rivals HBC Nantes. Another new arrival with Champions League experience is Theophile Causse from Dunkerque.

In contrast to the previous Champions League season, Montpellier were not seeded in Groups A/B, but start in Group C. Canayer is aware of what is ahead: “Our opponents in the group phase seem to be on the same level as each other. They neither seem to be unbeatable but all are dangerous in terms of the qualification for the knockout stages. We want to do better than last season and to finish amongst the best eight teams.”

In general, the coach praises the participation in the VELUX EHF Champions League: “Playing in this competition is very importance in terms of sports, economics and notability as in Montpellier several top sports are in competition with each other. So have to be part of the prestigious Champions League.”

Montpellier Handball (FRA)

Qualification for the 2016/17 VELUX EHF Champions League season: runners-ups in France

Newcomers: Valentin Porte (Fenix Toulouse), Nikola Portner (Kadetten Schaffhausen), Miha Zvizej (Fenix Toulouse), Jonas Truchanovicius (Union Leoben), Theophile Causse (Dunkerque)

Left the club: Felipe Borges (destination unknown), Jose Costa (destination unknown), Dragan Gajic (Telekom Veszprem), Arnaud Siffert (HBC Nantes), Matej Gaber (MOL Pick Szeged)

Coach: Patrice Canayer (since 1994)
Team captain: Michael Guigou

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

VELUX EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2016/17 season): 19
Winner (1): 2002/03
Semi-final (1): 2004/05
Quarter-final (4): 2000/01, 2005/06, 2009/10, 2010/11
Last 16 (6): 1995/96, 2003/04, 2006/07, 2011/12, 2014/15, 2015/16
Main Round (2): 2007/08, 2008/09
Group Phase (3): 1998/99, 1999/00, 2012/13
Qualification (1): 2013/14

Other EC records:

EHF Cup:

Finalist: 2013/14
Quarter-final: 1996/97
Last 16: 1993/94, 1994/95
Last 32: 1997/98

EHF Cup Winners’ Cup:
Quarter-final: 2001/02

French champions: 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
French cup winners: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2016
French League cup winners: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016

TEXT: Björn Pazen / bc

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