Defence will be decisiveArticle
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INTERVIEW: Gergő Iváncsik to about the much-anticipated clash with PSG, Veszprém’s season so far and high hopes for May.

Defence will be decisive

It has been an adventurous season for MKB-MVM Veszprém but the all-time FINAL4 contenders are where they are expected: preparing for the quarter-finals of the VELUX EHF Champions League. Hungarian international left wing Gergő Iváncsik spoke to about the much-anticipated clash with PSG, Veszprém’s season so far and high hopes for May.

Pressure is mounting

In coach Carlos Ortega’s first season at the helm Veszprém changed a lot. Emphasis was put on defence to a degree that MKB’s wall became a threat for all European big guns.

They narrowly lost to Kiel in the quarter-finals but the team played excellent handball and the future seemed even brighter when Veszprém landed massive reinforcements for this ongoing season with the signing of Carlos Ruesga and Momir Ilic. Expectations were sky high at the start of the season.

"We are a top team in Europe. We had time to get used to the fact that everybody expects us to win all games but this year is a little different – said Gergő Iváncsik.

"Everybody sort of got the feeling that our team is finally complete and we were pretty much obliged not just to win all games but do so in style.”

Better squad, worse display

Though Veszprém won most of their matches, won the Champions League group and will start the Hungarian playoffs from the first spot, there were signs that not everything is going perfectly. MKB lost to Zaporozhye in the CL and was beaten in Szeged by EHF Cup quarter-finalist Pick.

Iváncsik doesn’t have clear answers as far as Veszprém’s occasionally poor display is concerned: "We talked a lot about our issues with teammates. The drop of form might be the result of our unusually graceful draw in the group phase, or could be down to the fact that some of our players missed the entire preparation for the season due to injury. We have been struggling to find fifth gear but so far third and fourth were enough.”

"It’s the defence that is our main concern. We hope to get back to our best as soon as possible because we are entering a stage where we meet up with the world’s finest teams – claims the left wing.

Fellow strugglers

Veszprém will take on PSG for the FINAL4, which is shaping out to be the match of the round.

"Both teams were expected to go to Cologne thus one of us will be really disappointed. PSG have their own problems at the moment but you can’t be happy with a draw if you are picked against a team that lines up such world class talents. Still, I think we stand a fair chance to advance – said Iváncsik, who thinks defence will make the difference.

"Thorough analysis is to be followed but we’ve already saw some videos of PSG and we also met them three times in the summer [Veszprém emerged as winners two times and lost once in three friendly tournaments).

”This clash will be decided by defences. If we manage to counter their attacking power, Mirko (Alilovic) swallows shots the way he did vs. Plock, and we score a lot of goals from fast breaks, we should be fine – stated Iváncsik and added that Veszprém’s chances are boosted by the fact that among the four possible quarter final opponents PSG’s defence is the least agressive.

Money time

After all the investments it would be a huge blow for the Hungarians not to get a piece of the Cologne action. After some near misses the time has come for Veszprém to show their true worth against a world class team.

"It’s our turn to step up. No alibis, no excuses, it’s just us up against a fierce opponent that will fight all the way. We are determined to claim our place among the best four teams in the world. We know it will be tough but we feel we are strong enough to do the job.”

TEXT: Bence Martha / br