Two teams, two good omensArticle
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A PREVIEW OF THE FINAL: Veszprem versus Barcelona. Never before have a Hungarian team and a Spanish team fought for the EHF Champions League trophy.

Two teams, two good omens

A PREVIEW OF THE FINAL: Veszprem versus Barcelona. Never before have a Hungarian team and a Spanish team fought for the EHF Champions League trophy.

Veszprem or Barcelona? Ortega or Pascual? Ilic or Lazarov? Saric or Alilovic? The list of individual rivalries is long – and all of the questions regarding the winners will be answered on Sunday night, with 20,000 fans as witnesses in the LANXESS Arena in Cologne. Since 2010 and for the first time in the history of the VELUX EHF FINAL4, the final is not a duel consisting of only Spanish and German teams.

Final: MKB-MVM Veszprem (HUN) vs. FC Barcelona (ESP)

Sunday, 18:00 hrs. local time

Thanks to a 33:28 victory against Kielce, the Spanish champions FC Barcelona made it to their eleventh EHF Champions League final. The German champions, THW Kiel, were eliminated by MKB-MVM Veszprem with a score of 31:27. Finally after 13 long years, the Hungarian champions will battle again for the trophy, which will be handed over by Jean Brihault, concluding the 148 matches played since the beginning of the group phase.

“We can crown a fantastic season but we are definitely the underdog,” said the outstanding Veszprem goalkeeper, Mirko Alilovic, who was integral to his team's victory; as was his counterpart, Danijel Saric, for FC Barcelona in the other semi-final match. Hamburg and Flensburg were considered the underdogs in 2013 and 2014 respectively, but were fortunate enough to stand on the winner's podium.

But the statistics clearly speak for the seven-time EHF Champions League record winner, Barcelona. So far, they have beat Veszprem in international competitions ten times, including last year’s bronze medal match (26:25); four times the Hungarian side took the victory and one match ended with a draw.

“We have to realize that we haven't won anything yet.” The Barcelona defence specialist, Viran Morros, is aware of his opponent.

The duel of the coaches is a very special match-up for Antonio Carlos Ortega. As a former player of FC Barcelona, the Spaniard won the EHF Champions League trophy six times and on Sunday, he can become the second person in the history of men's handball to win the Champions League as player and as a coach.

Xavi Pascual seeks his second title after earning one in 2011. The good omen for him and Barcelona: In Cologne, they only lost in the finals against German teams -  in 2010 (Kiel) and 2013 (Hamburg). The only triumph was in 2011, when they defeated Ciudad Real in the final.

On the other hand, Veszprem hopes for another omen will prove to be true. Since 2007, all of the teams who eliminated THW Kiel would later go on to become the Champions League winners.

Veszprem team captain, Laszlo Nagy, has a similar story to Ortega's. For 13 years, he played for FC Barcelona and was their first ever non-Catalan team captain. He won the EHF Champions League in 2005 and 2011.

And the last of 148 matches will solve the mystery of the Golden Ball, presented by adidas, for the top scorer of the competition. Momir Ilic (Veszprem/109 strikes) is currently three goals ahead of Kiril Lazarov (Barcelona/106), and if he holds on, he can become the first player in Champions League history to be the top scorer for the third time in his career.

While Ilic lifted the trophy twice with Kiel in 2010 and 2012, Lazarov is still waiting for this title.

“We have one night to sleep, to get a little rest and to think about the final. But this is one match and if we give it our best, of course we have a chance”, says a confident Ilic.

Even more players of FC Barcelona can make personal history on Sunday. Siarhei Rutenka is aiming for his sixth EHF Champions League title, after winning the trophy in 2004 (Celje), 2006, 2008 and 2009 (Ciudad Real) and 2011 (Barcelona). Then, the Belarus national player would be on the same level as Ortega, as well as the Barcelona goalkeepers David Barrufet and Tomas Svensson and therefore, still one trophy win below record winner, Andrej Xepkin.

Nikola Karabatic and Cedric Sorhaindo are fighting to complete their quadruple trophy collection. After their French counterpart, Thierry Omeyer, completed his collection in 2010, they can become the second and third men in handball to hold the trophies of the Champions League, Olympic Games, World Championships and the EHF EURO.

TEXT: Björn Pazen