Larsen: "The best Barcelona team we have seen"Article
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FEATURE: The last time Mads Mensah Larsen met FC Barcelona, he was on the winning team. However, he does not expect history to repeat itself when he meets them again Sunday

Larsen: "The best Barcelona team we have seen"

Speaking to, Aalborg Handball director Jan Larsen does not hesitate to characterise the home game against FC Barcelona Intersport this Sunday as “the biggest match in the history of the club.”

It will also be a big experience to back court player Mads Mensah Larsen when he and his teammates from Aalborg take on Barcelona in the first leg of Last 16 of the VELUX EHF Champions League.

Unlike most of the other Aalborg players, however, the 22-year-old Danish international has actually defeated Barcelona before.

In the 2011/12 season, Mensah played for AG København, when they met Barcelona in the quarter-finals. In the first leg, AG won 29:23 in front of 21,300 spectators in the Parken stadium of Copenhagen on 20 April 2012. This meant that the Copenhagen team could easily live with a 36:33 defeat in the Palau Blaugrana a week later and still qualify for the VELUX EHF FINAL4.

“I do not expect to copy that win this year though. I think the teams in that quarter-final encounter back then were a bit more even than in the upcoming matches,” said Mads Mensah Larsen, who scored five goals in the two quarter-final matches two years ago.

“Considering our injury problems and our results in the domestic league lately, this challenge will be more than big enough for us, but of course it will be just as big an experience to me as to all my teammates to meet Barcelona. In my opinion, it is the best Barcelona team we have ever seen,” said Mensah Larsen, who recently returned to the court after a break due to a shoulder injury.

“I have just come back from an injury break and I am extremely hungry to play right now. However, I still have to take care. I hope for my shoulder to last for the rest of the season, and that may mean that I cannot play two-times 30 minutes in every match,” Mads Mensah Larsen told

Injury problems reduce the hope

Just like Mads Mensah Larsen, head coach Nikolaj Jacobsen finds that the injury problems his team is facing at the moment reduce the hope of creating a sensation against Barcelona.

“Johan Jakobsson (right back) is still not completely fit,” explained Jacobsen, who tested the Swedish international on the right wing as well as on the right back for short periods in the play-off match in the Danish championship against Bjerringbro-Silkeborg on Tuesday evening – a match which Aalborg lost 24:22.

“Furthermore, we are missing Marcus Mørk (left back), Stig Bugge (right wing) and Martin Larsen (right back), but even with our strongest outfit, we would probably not have had much of a chance over two matches against Barcelona.

“However, we are looking forward to presenting the probably greatest favourites for winning the Champions League to our spectators.

“I do not want to express any expectations regarding the result, but I do not fear that we will be too intimidated by meeting Barcelona, even though I see them as being at a higher level than Hamburg and Flensburg, who we met in the group phase. 

“Anyway, we will be preparing for that match just like we prepare for any other match,” Nikolaj Jacobsen told

No need for the red carpet

“Playing Barcelona is probably the greatest event in the history of the club, but the match does not give us any particular challenges, when it comes to the logistics,” Aalborg director Jan Larsen says.

“We do not exactly have to roll out the red carpet just because Barcelona are coming.

“Gigantium will be full, of course, as we have sold all 4,500 tickets in advance, but we also had a full hall when we met Hamburg and Flensburg in the group phase, and we are used to having 3-4,000 spectators at our home matches in the Danish league, so we are used to handling events with many spectators.

“Our largest organisational challenge will probably be the fact that we are have a buffet for 1,600 guests before the match. This will require the peeling of quite a number of potatoes,” concluded the director.

TEXT: Peter Bruun / cor