It´s showtime!Article
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Preview of the first leg match of the EHF Women's Champions League Final.

»EHF CL Channel »2010-11 Women's News

It´s showtime!

In this year’s EHF Women's Champions League, a new team will be crowned after the two matches of the final have been played, as both Norwegian Larvik HK and Spanish Itxako Reyno De Navarra have made it to the final of the most prestigious club tournament in the world for the first time ever.

With top performances throughout the season, both clubs celebrated their biggest success so far in their history, and they certainly aim for more. As usual, will give you news, updates and first-hand information in the build-up to this highly interesting final.

Larvik HK (NOR) vs. Itxako Reyno De Navarra (ESP)
Saturday 07 Mai 2011, 16:45 hrs (local time)

The Norwegian champions will play the first leg match at home and the excitement in the city and among the fans started to build right after the team progressed to the final after the double victory over Budućnost Podgorica.

"It feels just great to have reached the final this season. It has been our main goal all year long and finally a Norwegian team has cleared the final barrier!" said a pleased Larvik coach Tor Odvar Moen to

His side has recently won the Norwegian league and cup double, and is ready for its final challenges in the EHF Champions League: "The excitement is absolutely growing around us and we can feel that fans and friends of the club are nervous and impatient to get this show on the road. Our staff is working day and night to get ready for this and that is very hard work with only just two and a half weeks for the preparations. But we will all be ready on Saturday," added the trainer.

Several of the Larvik girls have won "everything" so far at a national team level. But at club level, they are still missing the EHF Champions League title in their collection. The excitement level is high among the players as well, although Moen thinks that "my staff and the team are the people that are the most calm and collected in this situation. We focus on training and strengthening our best qualities. Yes, it is a final, but to strip it down, it is all about playing good handball."

Just like Larvik, their counterpart Itxako have won both the Spanish league and Cup this season, so one of the teams will celebrate a triple after the season’s end. Itxako coach Ambros Martín says that, for his team "preparations take place as normal, just as when two matches are played during the week."

After the Semifinals were played, a national team week followed, and both countries participated in a tournament in Völklingen, Germany. Both clubs were able to rest their players, which understandably was very important for both coaches.

Martín says that "Jorge Dueñas, the Spanish national team coach believed it was appropriate for our team, taking into account the physical and mental health of the Itxako players."

On the other side, coach Moen confirms that the deserved Easter break was very welcome for many of his players, and Gro Hammerseng, Tonje Larsen and Nora Mørk were all rested: "This was already decided in February 2011. Nora is due to undergo surgery after the season ends and will not be ready for handball until later this year. Gro and Tonje had a very tough December at the EHF EURO and are now focusing on the club at the moment. This was a wise decision from the players and the National Team."

The two teams have not met this season in the EHF Champions League, only in the preparation phase in the summer at the Stelioplast Cup in Wittlich, Germany, where Larvik turned the game and clearly beat their opponent by 25:19 (11:12).

However, Norwegian coach Moen doesn’t consider that game as being relevant for the final as "it was just a training match and both teams have developed since August 2010."

We can easily say that the best attack (Larvik) will meet the strongest defence (Itxako) in the final. This was underlined by Larvik’s right-back Linn Jørum Sulland. In her opinion "the outcome will depend on how Itxako’s defence will be able to disrupt us. I think they have many defending variations to use and they have many unorthodox player types."

"It will be two exciting games, because we have not played against teams that are similar to them. There is a big difference with how Itxako play defence compared to the other teams we face. They can play all sorts of different defensive formations," Sulland added.

Itxako’s coach, the former Pamplona left-winger Ambros Martín, confirms that his side’s morale is very high and "we are confident about our chances."

However he thinks that it will be hard to find the weaknesses of the Norwegian champions: "Larvik are without a doubt this year the best team in the world. Norway are the European Champions, and Larvik’s main strength is team unity, and the experience they have from playing in finals and big competitions. At this moment I’m looking for some of their weaknesses, but cannot find any! I still have a few days to find one..."

Following the nice words from Martín about Larvik, coach Moen paid the highest respect to their opponent: "Itxako are a very worthy finalist, playing a marvellous season. They are much like us, whereby their ability as a team is the key element for their success. They work very hard for each other and they never, and I mean never, give up, even if they are struggling a little bit during a match."

Neither one of the trainers expect big tactical surprises in the final: "Only minor things might occur. We are very focused on our own abilities. There will be no revolution from our side. The Spaniards are very good at changing their game plan, especially in defence. We must be awake and ready if and when this happens," added Moen.

Itxako’s Ambros Martín sees the recipe for success in "trying to outdo ourselves. For this we must rise above our best in all facets of the game. Regarding the way Larvik play, we mustn’t allow them to use their most potent weapon, the counter attacks."

TEXT: Márk Hegedüs