Champions League returnees determined to confirm their statusArticle
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FEATURE: FC Porto will face Tatran Presov on Saturday in an encounter of two clubs returning to the European top flight

Champions League returnees determined to confirm their status

Missed the VELUX EHF Champions League group stage campaign in four consecutive seasons, yet, they are eager to show a comeback that would shuffle with the standings in Group C. However their group rivals are similarly determined after failing to qualify last year. Two teams that had problems getting through qualification rounds in past year, appreciate they are seeded directly in the group phase. Tatran Prešov are travelling to Porto to meet Dragons on Saturday, with beginning at 18:00 hrs local time.

"We are looking forward Champions league experience after so many years, however at the same time we feel responsibility towards our fans and all the people in Slovakia to represent Prešov and Slovakian handball in good manner,“ revealed Radoslav Antl, most experienced Prešov player.

"It is absolutely the most prestigious competition in the world for a handball player and we are all looking forward to it. For Tatran, it is important to be back after four years. Champions League is our priority!“ doubles up his coach Rastislav Trtík, who led the charge in Prešov In 2010/2011 when Prešov made it to the group stage for the last time.

Prešov are waiting for group stage win even longer. Last time they took all points dates back to 09.11.2008, when they were superior to Crvena Zvezda Beograd.

Radoslav Antl recalls some of the best moments of their last campaign in 2010/2011. "I remember very well home match against Hamburg (26:26) and against IK Sävehof (31:31). We drew both of them and at that time, those were fantastic results against top teams.”

Gilberto Eduarte, Porto left back extended his contract with the club in summer and he is keen to see quality of his team in Champions League. “The team is good. At the moment, we have all the players available and we know we have a difficult game ahead but we are here to fight,” started analysis for

However, asking him to compare Porto side that played in EHF Velux Champions League two years ago and now, Duarte was careful. „It's hard to make comparisons. I think we're prepared and we already have some experience. We'll do our best, fight until the end, we have a good team and in the end we can compare.“

Having missed last year´s campaign. Porto battled in the group phase of EHF Cup. Did not make it to the knock outs though. Duarte is happy Porto are back where he thinks, Porto belong. "The first time we played in the Champions League was amazing. Last year was hard, but I would like it to become a habit and it would be great if we could always be present.“

One of the most influential players in Porto is humble about competing with the club elite. “I can't talk about one special moment. I believe that being able to play in the Champions League is special and every game and individual moments with the team are special.”

Both sides have met twice, head to head is equal with one win each. Radoslav Antl does not have good memories on last game against Dragons. Lot has changed since then, seven players of Tatran from current squad played at that time. He was the best scorer of his team with six goals, but Tatan lost by one at home in the Champions League qualifying tournament. "I recall loosing with Porto by single goal at home in CL qualifier in 2011. We were bit unlucky in that game.“

Despite neither of the teams are favourites in this competitive group, Rastislav Trík is not hiding his ambitions. "Our goal is to advance into LAST 16 to bring top Champions League clubs into Prešov. Whether our goal is more science fiction or realistic dream, we will see after first 3-4 matches.“

"Match on Saturday will suggest a lot about where we stand in the group and how we can compare with other teams. Playing against Porto, in front of their fans will be tough,“ concluded Antl, who apologised for not answering his mobile. "We are playing matches every other day. We are always on the roads and have busy schedule,“ added Prešov left winger for

"We must not panic and get distracted by the full Drago Caixa with emotional Portuguese fans.We want to win against Porto!“ concludes Rastislav Trtík.

TEXT: Tomas Cuncik / br