11 May. 2021
After a month’s long wait, the EHF Champions League Men is back and this time there is no room for mistake for the last eight teams.
Four EHF FINAL4 berths in Cologne are up for grabs, with two rookies at this stage of the competition, HC Meshkov Brest and Aalborg Håndbold ready to prove their mettle.
The focus will definitely be on the electric THW Kiel vs Paris Saint-Germain Handball (PSG) clash, with the reigning champions eyeing the seventh EHF FINAL4 berth in 11 years. Kiel have had an underwhelming start to this season’s EHF Champions League, but the German powerhouse bounced back in the play-off phase, securing an impressive 66:56 aggregate win against MOL-Pick Szeged.
On the other hand, PSG are still searching for that elusive European silverware, as they have qualified to the EHF FINAL4 four times in the last five seasons, reaching the final once, in 2016/17, when they lost against Vardar, 23:24. Boasting the MVP of the 2021 IHF Men’s World Championship, left back Mikkel Hansen, PSG will look to beat the title holders and fulfil their biggest dream.
In one of the most dominating seasons in the competition’s history, Barça are on a 16-game winning streak. Facing HC Meshkov Brest, the Spanish powerhouse is a big favourite, the clash between Spanish masterminds Xavier Pascual and Brest’s Raul Alonso being the key point of the game.
Pascual definitely wants to end his 12-year tenure at Barça on a high, after winning the EHF Champions League twice and the IHF Super Globe five times, as it was announced this week that he will be leaving the Spanish team this summer.
Telekom Veszprém HC have always been a constant feature in the EHF FINAL4, earning five berths in the last six years and they look to add to that record against HBC Nantes. Emulating their performance from the 2017/18 season, when they reached the final, Nantes have been something of a dark horse, with experienced players like 36-year-old left wing Valero Rivera, the second-best scorer in the competition (76 goals), and 40-year-old right back Kiril Lazarov leading the lines.
The fourth EHF FINAL4 berth will be decided between SG Flensburg-Handewitt and Aalborg Håndbold. After securing first place in the group phase, Flensburg had a walk-over win against PPD Zagreb in the Play-offs, while Aalborg progressed after their doubleheader against FC Porto, thanks to scoring more away goals than their counterparts. The Danes aim to establish their status as a European powerhouse, with centre back Aron Palmarsson joining from Barça next summer, and Mikkel Hansen signing from the summer of 2022.
The two legs of the EHF Champions League quarter-finals will take place on 12 and 13 May, and 19 and 20 May, while the EHF FINAL4 is scheduled to be staged in Cologne on 12 and 13 June.
For more information, visit the EHF Champions League website.
Photo: THW Kiel/Sascha Klahn