Hats off to Koper!Article
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Madrid coach Talant Dushebajew talks to ehfCL.com

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Hats off for Koper!

Once he won the EHF Champions League as a player, three times he was victorious as a coach – and now he is one step away from heading to Cologne again: Talant Dushebajew is continuing his succesful coaching career with Atletico Madrid like he did with Ciudad Real before the re-naming. Before the VELUX EHF Champions League quarter-final against Slovenian outfit RK Cimos Koper, he talks about his sides' chances

ehfCL.com: Apart from THW Kiel and FC Barcelona Intersport, Atletico is currently the third most successful team of this VELUX EHF Champions League season. Did you expect this?
Talant Dushebajew: It is nice to have those results, but it is the past so I do not care about them. I am only looking ahead to see what will come. We have lot of work ahead to reach Cologne again.

ehfCL.com: But up to now your team played superbly...
Talant Dushebajew: I am really satisfied with our performances in the Group Stage. When we played tough opponents we had no fear, although we did respect them. In the end we deserved to win the group. Losing the re-match in the Last 16 against Schaffhausen was troublesome, but given the nine goal difference from the first leg and the fact that some players were injured we could live with the defeat. Besides, Schaffhausen had a brilliant day!

ehfCL.com: Schaffhausen is the past, Koper is ahead – and Atletico Madrid cannot complain about the draw. Are the Slovenians your most desired opponent?
Talant Dushebajew: It really could have been worse, as we are lucky not to face Zagreb or Kobenhavn. But you have to give 100 per cent against Koper, too, this will not be a walk in the park. We have a lot of respect for Cimos, especially after their Last 16 performances against Vive Targi Kielce. Koper is a surprisingly strong team with a lot of young talented players. Fair play to them - I did not expect them to be in the quarter finals.

ehfCL.com: Despite the respect: Do you expect your team as the favourite?
Talant Dushebajew: We have the little advantage that we have the second leg match on home ground, but the quarter finals take 120 minutes. Koper is strong in away matches, too, as shown in Kielce and Hamburg. So we have to be aware, as we want to return to Cologne.

ehfCL.com: Will the VELUX EHF FINAL4 be a Spanish-German encounter or will other clubs be able to reach the final destination of the VELUX EHF Champions League?
Talant Dushebajew: Defending champions FC Barcelona Intersport have a tough clash ahead with the incredibly strong team from Kobenhavn, but in my opinion they are a narrow favourite as they have the second leg at home, same as THW Kiel against Zagreb, an opponent which they should be aware of. The fourth quarter final of Füchse Berlin with Reale Ademar Leon is very close - both have a 50:50 chance. So a Spanish-German VELUX EHF FINAL4 seems to be likely, but teams like Kobenhavn or Zagreb have the chance to surprise.

ehfCL.com: If you eliminate Koper your team will have reached Cologne for the third straight time. In 2010 you missed the final, in 2011 you reached the final, but lost – so this year you should win the title…
Talant Dushebajew: It sounds quite good, but I currently do not care about the VELUX EHF FINAL4. We have league matches and the VELUX EHF Champions League quarter finals ahead, so just wait and see what happens before calculating or predicting.

ehfCL.com: Is there any team you consider as the big favourite for the VELUX EHF FINAL4 title this year?
Talant Dushebajew: It is not that one big favourite, but I have three teams on my list: FC Barcelona Intersport is the first candidate then THW Kiel and Atletico Madrid equally.

ehfCL.com: Your young Danish newcomer Nicolaj Markussen has made a huge step up this season. Did you expect him to have come so far already?
Talant Dushebajew: I am satisfied, but there is still a lot of room for more improvement, as he has only reached 60-65 per cent of his performance potential. He will develop even more – it was good for his integration that he arrived when the atmosphere in the club was so good.

TEXT: Björn Pazen