Hoping for great games in the Dragon’s denArticle
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VELUX EHF Champions League club countdown: 15 days to go - FC Porto (POR)

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Hoping for great games in the Dragon’s den

Five times in the previous six seasons, FC Porto have failed to qualify for the VELUX EHF Champions League group phase, in the 2013/14 season they were part of it and caused some remarkable surprises.

After getting eliminated by Zaporozhye in the 2014 qualification, now Porto were awarded a direct spot in the competition and will face La Rioja, Brest, Medvedi, Vojvodina and Presov in Group C of the VELUX EHF Champions League.

After their 20th national championship, the Portuguese record champions have changed their coach: Ricardo Costa is the successor of Ljubomir Obradovic, who led Porto to the group phase of the EHF Cup last season.

Five new arrivals are in his squad, while four players left Porto. Because of the new playing system, the Portuguese champions have to finish at least in second position of their group to qualify for the Last 16.

Club director Manuel Arezes is confident of making it to the knock-out stage for the first time since the 1999/00 season: “We will have to face strong opponents, but we believe that we have a chance to win all our ten group matches and to make it to the Last 16.”

Besides defending the domestic titles in Portugal, all matches in the Champions League have a huge importance for Porto, as Arezes mentions: “We face some of the best teams and players of the world and thus have a perfect opportunity to raise the level of our players and to increase the interest for handball in Portugal. In addition, it is a chance for the whole club and the sponsors to spread its brand to new markets.”

Team captain Ricardo Moreira is sure that Porto are on the same level as their opponents in Group C: “We have to win our home matches to proceed to the next stage - and we want to provide our fans with some good games and attractive handball in the Dragao Caixa (Dragon’s den), our arena.”

FC Porto (POR)
Qualification for the 2015/2016 VELUX EHF Champions League season:  Portuguese champions

Coach: Ricardo Costa (since 2015, former club: ISMAI)

Newcomers:  Gustavo Rodrigues (Pinheiros-Brazil), Rui Silva (Sporting Lisboa), António Areia (Benfica Lisboa), Felisberto Landim (Belenenses) and Jordan Pitre (Valence)

Left the club:  Mick Schubert; João Ferraz, Wesley Freitas, Francisco Silva

Opponents in the group phase: La Rioja, Brest, Medvedi, Presov, Vojvodina in Group A

VELUX EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2015/2016 season): 8
Last 16 (1): 1999/00
Group Phase (1): 2013/14
Qualification (5): 2004/05, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2014/15

Other achievements:

EHF Cup:
Group Phase 2014/15
Last 16: 1998/99, 2010/11, 2011/12

EHF Cup Winners’ Cup:
Quarter-final 2000/2001, 2001/2002

Portuguese champion: 1953/54, 1956/57, 1957/58, 1958/59, 1962/63, 1963/64, 1964/65, 1967/68, 1998/99, 2001/02, 2002/03, 2003/04, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12 and 2012/2013, 2013/2014, 2014/2015

Portuguese Cup winner: 1975/76, 1976/77, 1978/79, 1979/80, 1993/94, 2005/06 and 2006/07

League Cup winner: 2003/04, 2004/05, 2007/08

Super Cup winner: 1994/95, 1999/00, 2000/01, 2002/03, 2009/10, 2014/15

TEXT: Björn Pazen / bc