The 'Spanish school' faces off at Jane SandanskiArticle
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FACE TO FACE: Raul Gonzalez and Manolo Cadenas, the two Spanish coaches at the helm of HC Vardar and Orlen Wisla Plock, clash in the two team's VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16 second leg on Saturday

The ‘Spanish school' faces off at Jane Sandanski

There was no winner in the first Last 16 leg between HC Vardar and Orlen Wisla Plock with the game ending in a 30:30 draw last weekend, but both teams approach the deciding duel in Jane Sandanski on Saturday with very few unknowns, as both coaches confirm.

The career paths of Vardar’s Raul Gonzalez and Plock’s Manolo Cadenas have been intertwined for many years, starting more than 20 years ago in the Spanish league.

“I did not think that one day we would meet (Raúl and me) as coaches in the Champions League,” says Cadenas.

“At that time, when Raul was a Valladolid player, he was the perfect player: a special player that chooses always the best proposals that I explained as a coach. I am still teaching videos of how Raul played in Valladolid,” says Cadenas.

The Plock coach was Gonzales’ coach for five seasons at Valladolid, from 1991 to 1995, and when Raul Gonzalez decided to pursue a coaching career, shortly upon his playing days came to an end in 2005, the two met again, albeit in different roles.

Cadenas led Ademar Leon and Barcelona, while Gonzalez became Talant Dujshebaev’s assistant at Ciudad Real, before both Spanish tacticians opted to move east, taking over Plock and Vardar Skopje.

Back in the days at Valladolid: Manolo Cadenas (top row, fifth from the right) is the coach, Raul Gonzalez (no. 14, third from the left in the bottow row) one of his players

No surprises

“Manolo is one of the reference Spanish coaches - a very experienced, knowledgeable coach. I have learned a lot from working with him, as well as playing against him, and I think he is doing an excellent job at Plock.

“There are very few unknowns between us. In fact, we know everything there is to know about each other. It makes it that much more difficult to spring any big surprises,” says Gonzalez.

However, despite bearing a lot of resemblance, there are clear distinctions between the two Spaniards.

“I have no special handball style, it depends on the players you have in your team. Players influence style more than the coach. All the coaches, more or less, do the same, and depend on their team,” says Cadenas.

“As Spanish coaches, we think the same. However, despite the same school of thought, I feel there are many big differences in our styles,” says Raul Gonzalez.

"There is a number of things we do distinctly different. We (at Vardar) nurture characteristic styles which we have developed over the years,” adds Gonzalez who also downplays the importance of the two compatriot coaches in the upcoming match.

“I’m aware many would like to believe the coaches have a key role in this match. However, I assure you this is not as important. There are many different factors that decide the game other than the two of us, in my opinion.”

Gonzalez: “We are not favourites. Wisla perform best at big matches”

And while the match at the Jane Sandanski may not be decided, it will undoubtedly be influenced by the showdown of the Spanish school disciples at least to a certain extent.

Their handball style derivatives are to display a clash of the seasoned classic Cadenas versus the fresh and flamboyant fast-break minded Gonzalez.

“Fast breaks are our biggest weapon. We are good in defence, and we should make this our advantage. We must stay focused for the entire 60 minutes to be able to capitalise on the fast break and score many easy goals.

“Our weakness is the lack of backcourt shooters. Gorbok has not trained for 30 days, and he cannot play, and we don’t have (Blazenko) Lackovic anymore.

“On the other hand, our playmakers, Cindric and Karacic are in good form and can make the difference.

“But we must respect Wisla, they know how to perform at their best in the big matches. We are not favourites until we can prove it on the court,” says Raul Gonzalez.

For Cadenas the preparation for this second leg has been far from ideal.

“We have a season plan that does not allow us to think only of the Vardar game. It's a horrible planning because we have many matches every week. On Tuesday we played a play-off game. Unfortunately, I could not think about this Last 16 game until Thursday. It's a shame because we needed time to prepare for such an important game,” says the Plock coach.

Contrasting views

The two tacticians have contrasting views on the matter of revenge as well.

In the last season’s Last 16 both teams had met as well, and Vardar made it to the quarter-finals with a 30:21 win at home after they had lost the first leg 32:26.

“Of course Wisla will be eager for revenge for last year. They have performed admirably against the big teams. I know they have a tough schedule, but they tend to play their best at difficult times,” says Raul Gonzalez.

“What happened last year is forgotten, although we have lived the experience of last year and hopefully this serves us for Saturday,” states Cadenas.

Despite failing to agree on the favourites’ role, both coaches say that the tie in Jane Sandanski is the key match of the season so far.

“I’m looking forward this game. It is a knockout round and I watch the maximum of Vardar’s games every day. I want to see every detail.

“It will be a very difficult match because only Barcelona won in Skopje, and that shows the complication. But a knockout game is always different to a league match. We will fight for our chance,” says Cadenas.

“This game is not like the final to us – it is the final for us! This is the most important moment of the season,” says Raul Gonzalez.

TEXT: Nemanja Savic, Adria Barrio / ts