Eliminated stars prove the quality of these four teams, Pascual saysArticle
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INTERVIEW: Barcelona coach Xavi Pascual talks about his expectations of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne.

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Eliminated stars prove the quality of these four teams, Pascual says

Like THW Kiel coach Alfred Gislason, Xavi Pascual (47) will sit on the bench for the fifth time at the 2015 edition of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne. 

In contrast to the Icelandic, who has taken the trophy twice (2010, 2012), Pascual has stood only once on the winners’ podium, with FC Barcelona in 2011.

In 2010 and 2013 Barcelona lost the final against German sides (Kiel and Hamburg), and in 2014, the Catalan side were eliminated in the semi-final by Flensburg after a thrilling penalty shoot-out. 

As with every year before this one, Pascual, who took over Barcelona’s head coach position in 2009, winning more than 20 domestic and international titles since then, is ambitious to make it to the top again.

ehfcl.com: Like in 2013, Barcelona face Kielce in the semi-final in Cologne. Is this the opponent you had hoped for? 

Xavi Pascual: No, it's just the opponent that was drawn against us. Any team that made it to Cologne this year is of high quality and has a chance to win the Champions League, so Kielce can do too.

ehfcl.com: Is everything set for the ‘dream final’ against Kiel – or do all four teams have the same chances in Cologne?

Xavi Pascual: I guess that Kiel have slightly more chances than the rest of the participants – they play at home, but this year the event is very equal.

ehfcl.com: Is it an advantage for Barcelona that this year only one German team has qualified for Cologne? 

Xavi Pascual: I don’t think so, as I don’t care about it. I only have Kielce on my mind.

ehfcl.com: Some say this year, with the four group winners, is the strongest ever FINAL4 – do you agree? 

Xavi Pascual: It is the first time four teams that finished on top of their groups made it to Cologne. In my opinion those four are the best teams in Europe. Just have a look at the world stars, like Hansen, Abalo, Omeyer, Gensheimer, Landin, Sterbik, Mogensen or Glandorf, who missed qualification for the FINAL4 – this proves the high quality of those four teams. 

ehfcl.com: Is it an advantage or a disadvantage that Barcelona are already Spanish champions and can focus solely on the VELUX EHF Champions League? 

Xavi Pascual: It is simply a reality. The situation is not better or worse for us. We have to accept the reality and do not have to talk about hypotheses.

ehfcl.com: How do you keep the rhythm for Cologne – do you have special training sessions or is it business as usual? 

Xavi Pascual: We have business as usual in our preparation, just like for all matches of this season.

ehfcl.com: Is Barcelona stronger this year than in the previous? 

Xavi Pascual: Each year is different, as every year the team changes, so we have to wait for the result in Cologne to say if we are better or not.

ehfcl.com: Five years have gone since Barcelona won their last EHF Champions League title – has the time come again? 

Xavi Pascual: It’s quite impossible to win the Champions League every year, but is impossible to win if you have not made it to Cologne. We will be in Cologne, so let’s wait and see.

ehfcl.com: Alfred Gislason says this year Barcelona are the favourites for winning the trophy – do you agree? 

Xavi Pascual: I disagree – in my opinion Kiel are the favourites, as they play at home. 

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cg