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28.04.2017, 09:24◄ last page     


QUARTER-FINAL PREVIEW: After their three-goal defeat at Veszprém, Montpellier have their eyes still set on Cologne ahead of Sunday's return game.
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Montpellier hope for another magic night in Bougnol

A clear, but difficult task awaits Montpellier when the French side host Veszprém in the return leg of their VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-final on Sunday. After the 26:23 defeat in Hungary, Montpellier are still hoping for their first ever VELUX EHF FINAL4 berth.

• Montpellier must win but have not beaten Veszprém since 2011
• Montpellier won the title in 2003 but have never played at a FINAL4
• Veszprém want to book their ticket to Cologne for a fourth straight year

QUARTER-FINAL, SECOND LEG:

Montpellier HB (FRA) vs Telekom Veszprém (HUN)
Sunday, 18.30 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

In order to get to the VELUX EHF FINAL4, Montpellier must do something on Sunday they haven’t done for six years - beating Veszprém.

Since the last win for Montpellier in 2011, it has been a pretty one-sided affair. Two years ago, the last time Veszprém paid Montpellier a visit, they travelled back to Hungary with a 14-goal victory (34:20) in their luggage.

Jure Dolenec, Montpellier’s Slovenian right back, thinks that his team have got room for improvement after the first leg.

“We had a pretty good performance in defence but we were far from our best on the other side of the court,” Dolenec says. “We missed many shots and lost a couple of important balls. It all added up and explains the three goals difference at the end.”

Dolenec and his teammates believe they can overturn the deficit and send Montpellier to Cologne for the first time. The French side won the EHF Champions League in 2003, well before the FINAL4 format was introduced.

To make their dream come true, Montpellier will count on the help from their fans. The small René Bougnol arena has been the place for miracles before, when Montpellier successfully overcame huge deficits.

Most notably in the 2003 final: After losing the first leg by eight goals (27:19) to Portland San Antonio in Spain, Michaël Guigou and his teammates won the return by 12 goals (31:19) at home, giving Montpellier their first and so far only European trophy.

Several other miracle escapes followed, and Guigou hopes that Sunday the next chapter will be added.

“Bougnol has got something magic, it's small, it's sweaty and it's one of the toughest places to play in Europe. It will be packed on Sunday and hopefully Veszprém will feel a bit uneasy,” the left wing says, before adding with a laugh: “Even though they know a lot about noisy fans.”

For Dragan Gajic, Montpellier are still a very fresh memory as he still played there last season. He didn’t present his former teammates with any gifts on Sunday and scored twice.

The Slovenian right wing is aware the trip to the south of France will be tough.

“Three goals isn't something you can rest on. There will be no room for calculation. We will have to go out there to win,” Gajic says. “Bougnol is definitely something that impresses the opponents because everything can happen there. But I've told my teammates about it and hopefully they won't be surprised.”

Gajic moved from France to Hungary to finally be able to participate in the FINAL4. He will have to wait until Sunday evening to find out whether he made the right move in the offseason.


TEXT: Kevin Domas / ew

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