Top eight luring Metalurg againArticle
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COUNTDOWN: VELUX EHF Champions League countdown, part 20: Metalurg Skopje (MKD)

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Top eight luring Metalurg again

Madrid, Barcelona or Paris? No, it’s Skopje! For the first time ever two clubs from one city have qualified for the Group Phase of the VELUX EHF Champions League – and to make the dream of all Macedonian handball fans come true, both city rivals Vardar and Metalurg even face each other in the same group.

After Vardar took the championship in the final match against Metalurg, the team of coach Lino Červar needed to make their way through the qualification.

But they easily beat Hungarian runners-up Pick Szeged in the wild card play-offs, including an impressive 26:16 victory on home ground.

So Metalurg are part of the Group Phase for the third straight time – and it is their clear will to reach the knock-out stage for the third straight time despite the team was rejuvenated.

In the previous season Metalurg proceeded to the quarter-final to gain the biggest success ever of a Macedonian team in the history of men’s handball.

Besides some young talented players from the Balkan region, Metalurg managed to transfer a famous shooter with Champions League experience: Russian Pavel Atman, arriving from Minsk. Originally, he was supposed to play for Chekhovskie Medvedi, but then changed to Metalurg after Medvedi withdrew from international competitions.

Beside their hopes to clinch the berth for the Last 16 in the Champions League, Metalurg aim for reaching the title of the regional SEHA League, where they also face Vardar and to make both Macedonian trophies return to their cabinet.

A major key to success might be the return of Dejan Manaskov, who was out after a knee injury for a long-term. By his six goals in the first leg against Szeged he already proved his significance for the team – and Červar is highly pleased about the fact that his squad started the season without any injury problems.

Červar, who also acts as a manager, is looking forward to a tough group, as not only Vardar but the two powerhouses Barcelona and Paris, and additionally Minsk and Thun are their opponents in the Group Phase.

 “We want to reach the Last 16 and if  possible also play in the quarter-finals again. This season our group is much stronger than the year before with the two giants Barcelona and PSG and our local opponent Vardar as our competitors.

“I believe we can reach the third place in this strong group and to show again that HC Metalurg is rising year-by-year.”

Naumče Mojsovski is also ready to “rumble”. “After mastering the qualification we are ready for a big fight in the Champions League again. We have a good team, and newcomer Pavel Atman made us really stronger by about 30 percent. I believe that we can reach the third place in this group of death,” Metalurg's team captain said.

Three questions to coach Lino Červar:

What are your expectations for the upcoming season of the VELUX EHF Champions League -  concerning your objectives and your group opponents?

Lino Červar: It will be a new big challenge for us. Now we are more experienced after a great season when we where only one step away from the VELUX EHF FINAL4.

It will be great to play against PSG, Barcelona and others in the group and we are happy because we are again a part of the European handball family.
What does the participation in the VELUX EHF Champions League mean to you and your club?

Lino Červar: A lot. Handball is our life, our pleasure, our passion. We are a club which is beloved among Macedonian people and we are proud of that. We want to give them more and more great moments.
What teams are your personal favourites to reach the VELUX EHF FINAL4 and for winning the title this season – and why?

Lino Červar: Of course PSG and Barcelona from our group, Veszprem, Kielce, Wisla Plock, Kiel and Hamburg. My favourite for the title are Barcelona because of their long tradition and their great team.

HC Metalurg Skopje (MKD)

Qualification for the 2013/14 VELUX EHF Champions League season: Winner of the wild card matches against Pick Szeged (HUN), Macedonian runners-up

Coach: Lino Červar, since 2009

Newcomers: Pavel Atman (Dinamo Minsk/BLR), Nikola Markovski, Goce Ojleski (Vardar Skopje), Dejan Pecakovski (Strumica), Petar Topić (Kaštela/CRO), Nikola Kedžo (Csurgói KK/HUN)
Left the club: Miladin Kozlina  (destination unknown), Tihomir Doder (Hapoel/ISR), Mladen Rakčević (AEK/GRE), David Koražija (destination unknown), Damir Batinović (Cesson-Rennes/FRA)

VELUX EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2013/14 season): 6
Quarter-final (1): 2012/13
Last 16 (1): 2011/12
Group Matches (2): 2006/07, 2008/09
Qualification (1): 2010/11

Other records in EC:
9 participations in other EC

Macedonian league: 5 titles (2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012)
Macedonian Cup winner: 5 times


TEXT: Björn Pazen / br