Ilić wants to avoid Barcelona in CologneArticle
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Serbian right back vying for third VELUX EHF Champions League trophy with THW Kiel

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Ilić wants to avoid Barcelona in Cologne

When Momir Ilić recollects his illustrious club and international career one day, there is little doubt that his time at THW Kiel will be right at the top of his list of achievements.

The 32-year-old back court player, who has won it all with the German giants, will leave the defending champions at the end of the season and is as hungry as ever to go out with a bang.

Having squeezed past Hungary’s Veszprém in the VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-finals with a pair of narrow wins, Kiel will head to Cologne confident of retaining the silverware they won so emphatically last season.

Ilić, however, stressed he would prefer to avoid Barcelona in the semi-finals when the draw is held on Thursday, 2 May.

“Barcelona and Kiel are the best two teams in Europe and it would be a pity if we didn’t meet in the final, because that clash of the titans would be a fitting and spectacular climax to what has been a fantastic season,” Ilić told the Serbian Handball Federation in an interview.

“We were fortunate to get past Veszprém, also a great side, after clawing out a 32:31 win in the first leg home having fought back from a six-goal deficit.

“We drew on all our experience, strength and spirit, while we were patient in the return leg because we knew that throwing caution to the wind would be inviting disaster.

“Our shot selection was impeccable and here we are, vying for the trophy again after edging them 29:28 in Hungary,” said Ilić, who can become the first Serbian player to win three EHF Champions League titles.

“This season is the peak of my career and it would be that much sweeter to make it a three-peat, because I had dreamt of just one when I started out.

“Winning the first makes you want it more and more, but it’s going to be a mammoth task against the likes of Barcelona, Hamburg and Vive Targi Kielce in Cologne,” he added.

Ilić knows only too well that the VELUX EHF FINAL4 is an unforgiving tournament, where even the slightest dip in form can be costly.

While the Serbian sharpshooter is relying on vociferous fan support, he acknowledged that Kiel would have to save their best for last if they are to overcome their opponents.

“One bad afternoon and it all goes down the drain so we will have to be as focused as ever to avoid the disappointment of not reaching the pinnacle,” he said.

The course of events so had it that Ilić played against his future club when he faced Veszprém, having decided to end the Bundesliga part of his career and move to the Hungarian giants next term.

He expressed confidence that he would return to Cologne for the 2014 event, with an ambitious side looking to make the biggest possible impact in Europe.

“It was a rather specific situation and I was very excited. I am overjoyed to have agreed the move to Veszprém because they are an outstanding team backed by the entire city and fans that are the envy of Europe.

“My first priority after deciding to leave Kiel was to go to a club with the highest ambitions, because Kiel is the biggest club in the world and I spent four unforgettable years here.

“I have won a load of silverware and I hope to put more in my trophy cabinet with Veszprem,” Ilić said in conclusion. 

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević / cor