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14.09.2016, 17:00◄ last page     

VELUX EHF Champions League Countdown – 7 days to go: Telekom Veszprém (HUN) have plenty of challenges to deal with this season but appear to have the tools to deal with everything thrown at them

Deep Veszprem squad focused on success in anniversary season

‘#40 years’ is the hashtag for the upcoming season, as Telekom Veszprém  will celebrate their 40th anniversary since the club was founded on 9 January 1977 and everyone at the Balaton Lake club is eager to crown the anniversary season with several trophies. After winning the SEHA Liga twice in a row, Veszprém hope for the treble and under the helm of new Sports Director, Nikola Eklemovic, the team wants to forever forget their most painful minutes of their 21 Champions League participations.

Fifteen minutes before the end of the 2016 final in Cologne, Veszprém were ahead by eight goals and there was no doubt that the Hungarian record champions would win their first VELUX EHF Champions League title. But nearly an hour later, after extra time and a penalty shootout, Vive Tauron Kielce were on the podium. Veszprém were beaten for the third time in a Champions League final, following 2002 (Magdeburg) and 2015 (Barcelona).

Veszprém must learn from this match and as they face three hard competitions (Hungarian League, SEHA, Champions League), the team has clearly increased the number of players on their squad. The top signings among the eleven new players include Croat Marko Kopljar from Barcelona and Slovenians Dragan Gajic from Montpellier and Blaz Blagotinsek from Celje. On the other hand, only two players left Veszprém, Isaias Guardiola and Christian Zeitz.

“With a team such as this one, Veszprém have a goal which is nothing short of being among the best teams in every competition and doing anything for the final victory,” clarifies team captain, Laszlo Nagy.

Sports director Eklemovic is more concrete with the goals. “Our target is the fourth straight qualification for the FINAL4. It will be very hard, but I hope our team will not be limited by injuries and I hope all players will be ready to play to the end of season.”

Veszprém were drawn in a tough Group A, including top opponents Kiel, Flensburg, Barcelona and PSG. “This group is one of the strongest ever in the history of the EHF Champions League. Every game will be like a FINAL4 game. For the supporters, it will be amazing because they will see extremely exciting and very interesting games every single week,” says Eklemovic confidently.

Nagy shares his hopes for the season. “We are in a very hard group, in which every point and every goal will really count, both at home and on the road. As always, we will work and play step-by-step, because we are facing a truly tough Champions League season. The ultimate goal is the ticket to Cologne again.”

The captain, a two-time Champions League winner with FC Barcelona, expects close matches and is mainly focused already on the second half of the season. “After collecting as many points as possible, the most difficult and crucial period will come in February and March, after the World Championship in France. Hopefully, from February to May, we will be able to get into our best form.”

In general, the Veszprém organization is highly anticipating the new VELUX EHF Champions League season, as Eklemovic explains, “This competition is the highest level of handball with the best clubs and best players in the world. Every Champions League game is a special day for our fans and players. Every single year it is a fantastic event and a real celebration of this beautiful sport.”

Telekom Veszprém (HUN)

Qualification for the 2016/17 VELUX EHF Champions League season: Hungarian champions

Newcomers: Inal Aflitulin (Bergischer HC), Mirko Milasevic (Dinamo Bucuresti), Gábor Ancsin (Szeged), Dragan Gajic (Montpellier), Marko Kopljar (Barcelona), Blaz Blagotinsek (Celje), Patrik Ligetvári (Balatonfüred – back from loan), Norbert Gyene (Balatonfüred – back from loan), Dávid Fekete (Vác – back from loan), Ádám Borbély (Tatabánya – back from loan), Attila Tóth (junior Veszprém)

Left the club: Christian Zeitz (THW Kiel), Isaias Guardiola (HC Erlangen)

Coach: Javier Sabate (since 2015)
Team captain: László Nagy

Opponents in the group phase: Barcelona, PSG, Bjerringbro, Plock, Kiel, Schaffhausen and Flensburg in Group A

VELUX EHF Champions League record:
Participations (including 2016/17 season): 22
Final (3): 2001/02, 2014/15, 2015/16
Semi-final (3): 2002/03, 2005/06, 2013/14
Quarter-final (9): 1997/98, 1998/99, 1999/2000, 2003/04, 2004/05, 2006/07, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2012/13
Last 16 (2): 1993/94, 2010/11, 2011/12
Group phase (3): 1994/95, 1995/96, 2007/08

Other EC records:
Cup Winners’ Cup:
Winner 2007/08
Final: 1996/97

Winner of the SEHA Liga: 2015, 2016
Super Globe finalist: 2015

Hungarian champions: 1984/85, 1985/86, 1991/92, 1992/93, 1993/94, 1994/95, 1996/97, 1997/98, 1998/99, 2000/01, 2001/02, 2002/03, 2003/04, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2007/08, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16

Hungarian cup winner: 1983/84, 1987/88, 1988/89, 1989/90, 1990/91, 1991/92, 1993/94, 1994/95, 1995/96, 1997/98, 1998/99, 1999/00, 2001/02, 2002/03, 2003/04, 2004/05, 2006/07, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16

TEXT: Björn Pazen / tm

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