|16.09.2016, 14:30||◄ last page|
VELUX EHF Champions League countdown – 5 days to go: TATRAN Presov (SVK). Coming through a tough qualification group, the Slovakian champions set high domestic goals while aiming for a good showing in Europe's premier club competition
After breaking the curse now Europe beckons
After failing four straight times in VELUX EHF Champions League qualification tournaments, TATRAN Presov finally broke the curse.
On home court, they first beat the champions of Luxembourg, Red Boys Differdange, and then left the experienced Slovenian side Velenje behind - though coach Rastistlav Trtik had to come to terms with a completely new line-up.
Nine players including SEHA League top scorer Radoslav Antl (to SBS Eger-Eszterhazy), Alexandr Radcenko (HCB Karvina) and Michal Kopco (Sporting Lisboa) have all left Tatran and the new arrivals lack international experience.
But the Slovakian champions, who won the league and the cup trophy for the tenth consecutive time in 2016, managed to snatch a spot in Europe’s premier club competition after they had been granted a direct spot for the group phase last season.
They have set clear goals for the new season: to finish on top of all Slovakian competitions, to end up among the top six in the SEHA League and the top four in their Champions League group.
This season, Tatran will celebrate their 15th anniversary as an incorporated company, marking a new era of handball in Presov. Thus, even a new mascot (a white horse) will be presented, as the successor of Nestor. After finishing on the bottom of their group last time out, the 'new Tatran' aim to climb the ladder.
Their pre-season was quite successful, winning the International Memorial Cup in Mielec, Poland, and the Czecho-Slovak Cup on home court in Presov.
Besides that, they finished second at tournaments in Sala and Doboj before clinching a berth for the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase.
“It is really a great honor to be part of this competition and to promote Presov’s and Slovakian handball in Europe,” says manager Branko Benko. Like last season, his team will face La Rioja and Medvedi in their group, and Benko has huge respect for both teams, but his personal favourite for finishing on top of the group is French side Montpellier.
In addition, Presov will face SEHA league rivals Metalurg and will have their very first matches against Elverum: “We really do not know them, but we believe that it will be good experience to gain some experience against the Norwegian style of handball,” says Benko.
For team captain Radovan Pekar it is important to prove “that we belong in the VELUX EHF Champions League and to continue participating in this competition every year. Our objective is to get more points than last year. Also we would like to perform better in our home matches and of course entertain our fans.”
Pekar’s hopes for the group phase are different: “Montpellier will proceed to the knockout stage, we hope to steal some points from Metalurg, and regarding Medvedi and La Rioja we want to beat them at least at home; Elverum are a unknown entity to us right now.”
TATRAN Presov (SVK)
Qualification for the 2016/17 VELUX EHF Champions League season: Slovak champions, winner of qualification tournament 1
Newcomers: Vadym Brazhnyk (AHC Dunarea Calarasi), Stefan Jankovic (Borac Banja Luka), Leon Vucko (PPD Zagreb), Roman Tsarapkin (Chekhovskie Medvedi), Marek Pales (HKM Sala)
Left the club: Radoslav Antl (SBS Eger-Eszterhazy), Andrej Petro (SBS Eger-Eszterhazy), Alexandr Radcenko (HCB Karvina), Michal Kopco (Sporting Lisboa), Vasja Furlan (US Ivry Handball), Richard Wilga (Fuzesabony), Vladimir Bozic (Neusser HV), Ivan Ivkovic & David Pogany (unknown)
Coach: Rastislav Trtik (since 2015)
Opponents in the group phase: Montpellier, Metalurg, La Rioja, Elverum, Medvedi in Group C
Other EC records:
EHF Cup Winners’ Cup:
TEXT: Björn Pazen / bc