Cervar wants an unforgettable seasonArticle
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VELUX EHF Champions League countdown, part 12: HC Metalurg Skopje have been quarter-final stalwarts recently but are ready to take the next step and reach Cologne

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Cervar wants an unforgettable season

Metalurg Skopje’s players certainly know how to make history. In the 2012/13 season they were the first Macedonian team to qualify for the quarter-finals of the VELUX EHF Champions League.

One year later they were part of the first duels between two teams from one city in the competition, facing Vardar in the group phase, and then again made it to the quarter-finals, finally beaten eventual finalists THW Kiel.

In the new season the team of Lino Cervar will travel to Kiel again, as part of a tough group in the first stage of the competition including Paris Saint-Germain, HC Zagreb, La Rioja and another team they know from SEHA Liga, Meshkov Brest.

In the domestic championship, Metalurg left Vardar behind to win the title for the sixth time – despite missing their team captain Naumche Mojsovski due to injury.

With Naumce back on track, his brother Zlatko left Metalurg to sign for Pelister Bitola - one of five players transferring from the Macedonian champions.

Meanwhile, the same number of newcomers arrived in Skopje, three Serbians, one Montenegrin and one Macedonian. These newcomers appear to have fit in quite well, as Metalurg beat Vardar 25:19 in the highlight of their preparation in Struga.

Taking into consideration the tough group and the changes within the team, the objective in Europe is simply to qualify for the knock-out stages.

On home turf and in the SEHA Liga, Metalurg expects a fierce battle with their local rivals Vardar for top spot.

“As always, HC Metalurg strives to present itself in the best possible light in the Champions League and will do everything possible this season to play an important part.

“Our group is strong starting with PSG and THW Kiel, however, Metalurg will make an attempt to attack second place in the group,” says coach Lino Cervar, who also acts as the manager of the club.

Team captain Mojsovski maintains a mixture of realistic expectations and dreams: “The basic goal this season will be to secure a place in the Last 16 and then to take it step by step, but we will again attempt to fight for the VELUX EHF FINAL4.”

Three questions to coach Lino Cervar:

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

Lino Cervar: The basic goal is to qualify for the knock-out stage, and later every step on our way will just be an added bonus in our attempts for a better result. The group is strong, facing both titans PSG and Kiel who have exceptional teams, but we will approach the rest of the teams without underestimating them and we will fight one of the first four places in the group.

What does the participation in the VELUX EHF Champions League mean to you and your club?

Lino Cervar: The participation of HC Metalurg in the VELUX EHF Champions League is a great honour for us but also a great responsibility. In the last few years we have built an image of the club that should become even better with each season. We have a wonderful audience in Skopje, to which we owe another unforgettable season.

What teams are your personal favourites to reach the VELUX EHF FINAL4 and for winning the title this season – and why?

Lino Cervar: There are a few candidates for the participation at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne. We have both teams from our group PSG and Kiel, last year’s champion Flensburg, the always ambitious team of Barcelona, Vesprem and Kielce, who will probably want to make amends for last season’s failure. Of course, there are teams which will look for a chance such as Löwen, Vardar and Pick Szeged.

HC Metalurg Skopje (MKD)

Qualification for the 2014/2015 VELUX EHF Champions League season: Macedonian champions

Newcomers: Vladan Lipovina (BM Ciudad Encantada), Mijajlo Marsenic (Partizan Belgrade), Darko Djukic (Zeleznicar Nis), Miroslav Kocic (Vojvodina), Milorad Kukoski (Zomimak).

Left the club: Rade Mijatovic (Csurgoi KK), Dejan Pecakovski (Pelister Bitola), Nikola Kedzo (HCM Constanta), Igor Mandic (destination unknown), Zlatko Mojsoski (Pelister Bitola)

Coach: Lino Cervar (since 2009)

VELUX EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2014/2015 season): 7
Quarter-finalist (2): 2012/2013, 2013/2014
Last 16 (1): 2011/2012
Group Matches (2): 2006/2007, 2008/2009
Qualification (1): 2010/2011

Other EC records:
9 participations in other EC competitions

Macedonian league champion: 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014
Macedonian Cup winner: 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor