Barça aim to retain title as EHF Champions League Men starts Wednesday

13 Sep. 2021

Barça aim to retain title as EHF Champions League Men starts Wednesday

The 29th season of the EHF Champions League Men will throw off on Wednesday 15 September, with 16 teams at the start, including reigning champions Barça.

The Spanish powerhouse had a flawless 2020/21 season, winning all 20 games on their way to their ninth trophy in the competition.

However, the challenge will be definitely higher this time around, as Barça have a target on their back, with 15 other teams ready to test a team that has thoroughly changed this summer.

Long-serving coach Xavier Pascual was replaced by former Barça player Antonio Carlos Ortega, ending a 12-year stint at the helm of the Spanish champions that produced 61 trophies. Influential players like Jure Dolenec or Aron Palmarsson also left for new pastures, signalling a change of guard at the most decorated European side.

Yet, Barça are still considered one of the favourites to lift the trophy once again, despite the 16-team line-up being completed by European powerhouses like German champions, THW Kiel, Polish champions Lomza Vive Kielce, Hungarian powerhouse Telekom Veszprém HC or French champions Paris Saint-Germain Handball.

Kiel, a four-time winner of the competition, which they won most recently in the 2019/20 season, have retained their core of experienced players, including Norwegian ace Sander Sagosen and the 2019 IHF Male World Player of the Year, Danish goalkeeper Niklas Landin.

It will be the last chance for the MVP of the 2021 IHF Men’s World Championship, Mikkel Hansen, to win the most prestigious European trophy with PSG, as the Danish back will leave for Aalborg Håndbold next summer. With plenty of experience on their side, including five French Olympic champions from Tokyo 2020, PSG will try to secure their first-ever international trophy.

The 16 teams have been drawn into two groups of eight, with the top two sides earning safe passage to the quarter-finals. Teams ranked third to sixth will take part in the play-offs, with the winners also securing a quarter-finals berth.

The champions from Spain, Hungary, Germany, France, Portugal, North Macedonia, Poland, Denmark and Croatia, as well as the runners-up from the German Bundesliga, SG Flensburg-Handewitt, were directly placed in the group phase, while another six teams were awarded wild cards.

From those six, the fresh face is Dinamo Bucharest, back in the European top competition after a one-year break. The Romanian champions will be one of the most intriguing teams this season, having ushered in Barça’s coach Xavi Pascual and former French captain, line player and defensive specialist, Cedric Sorhaindo.

In total, six former winners of the competition – Barça, THW Kiel, HC Vardar 1961, SG Flensburg-Handewitt, Montpellier HB and Lomza Vive Kielce will take part in the competition.

EHF Champions League Men 2021/22 season

Group A: Pick Szeged, THW Kiel, HC Vardar 1961, Aalborg Handbold, HC Meshkov Brest, Montpellier HB, HC PPD Zagreb, Elverum Handball

Group B: Paris Saint-Germain Handball, Barça, FC Porto, Lomza Vive Kielce, SG Flensburg-Handewitt, Telekom Veszprem HC, CS Dinamo București, HC Motor Zaporozhye

For more information, visit the competition website.