MOTW: Barca hope for a magic night, Kiel count on statistics
Will FC Barcelona Lassa qualify for their 14th semi-final of the Men’s EHF Champions League? Or will 13 be the lucky number for THW Kiel after being part of the best four teams of this competition 12 times so far? The ehfTV.com Match of the Week on Saturday (29 April) night will bring the decision.
Kiel won the first leg of the quarter-finals on home ground 28:26
Between them both sides have won 11 Men’s EHF Champions League trophies since 1996 and have appeared a combined 11 times at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne since 2010
This pairing was a final in the competition twice - 2000 won by the Catalans, 2010 by Kiel
Kiel eliminated Barcelona last season at the same stage after a 29:24 win at home and a 33:30 loss in Spain
At Barcelona’s home, Palau Blaugrana, Kiel have two victories and nine defeats
German side have never been eliminated in all 21 of their knock-out matches in the EHF Champions League when they have won the first leg
QUARTER-FINAL – SECOND LEG
FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP) vs THW Kiel (GER) (First Leg 26:28)
Saturday 29 April, 18:30 hrs local time, MOTW live on ehfTV.com
“We are the clear underdog, Barcelona are the clear favourites,” said Kiel coach Alfred Gislason on Wednesday night after his team had won their Bundesliga away match at EHF Cup champions Frisch Auf Göppingen.
“Those are the roles before the throw-off, and the pressure is on them not us, but if we can manage to keep the match equal until the final stages this pressure might increase in a way which we then can profit from - if we fight like we fought already then we are not completely without a chance in Barcelona.”
His team was already down by five goals in the middle of the second half before they staged a comeback to win 31:27. An overall defeat at this stage of competition will end their hopes for another participation in the VELUX EHF Champions League, as they currently only lie fourth-ranked in the German Bundesliga.
On the other hand, their Spanish hosts have won their last 117 matches in a row in the Spanish Liga Asobal won their seventh straight Spanish championship and their left back Filip Jicha knows how crucial the tie in the elite competition is this Saturday.
“The match against Kiel is the most important match in this season,” said Jicha who won the VELUX EHF Champions League with Kiel in 2010 and 2012.
“It is a pity that for the second time in a row both teams lock horns in the quarter-finals again as both belong in the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne.”
Kiel have been to the final weekend in Cologne six times, reaching three finals and winning the trophy twice, but their opponents Barcelona have been more efficient, making it to four finals in five participations, winning the trophy twice too.
Both have been eliminated as defending champions once - both against each other. Kiel were eliminated by two defeats in the 2011 quarter-finals by Barcelona, but the Germans turned the tide one year ago.
Now the match-up is the same as in 2016. Barcelona skipped the Last 16 after winning their group and Kiel won the first leg - but not by five goals as in 2016, but two.
“It starts at zero - two goals mean nothing in handball,” said Jicha, a view echoed by THW coach Gislason prior to the 25th duel of both side in their international match-ups (11 wins each for Kiel and Barcelona, two draws).
But one statistic speaks very strongly for Jicha’s side. Kiel won their first leg match in 21 ties in the Champions League knock-out stages and all 21 times they proceeded to the next round while Barcelona have not lost a knock-out stage match in the Champions League in the past 20 years.
Barcelona even clinched the berth to Cologne after a seven-goal deficit in the first leg of a quarter-final in 2014, when a 31:24 victory on home ground was enough to shatter the hopes of Rhein-Neckar Löwen, who had won 38:31 on home ground.
“Those 6,814 fans were the highest attendance in the Palau Blaugrana in any Champions League quarter-final,” remembers Barcelona coach Xavi Pascual about the atmosphere and the magic of that match. “But this time, we even hope for more fans and we need them and their constant support.”
The highest-ever Barcelona win against Kiel on home ground was their historic 44:37 win in the 2008 semi-finals - but even this result was not enough for the Champions League record winners, as they had already lost the first leg 41:31 at Kiel.
In 2017, they are just two goals down and their opponents are happy not only because of the win, but also because the red and blue card against Dane Rene Toft Hansen in the first leg does not have any consequences as the EHF decided that the line player is eligible to play, leaving Domagoj Duvnjak as Kiel’s only key player to miss the match (and the next six month after his patella surgery).