Cervar rejuvenates squad and sets realistic goalsArticle
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VELUX EHF Champions League club countdown: 21 days to go - HC Metalurg Skopje (MKD). A lot of chopping and changing for the Macedonian outfit, who look to past glory as inspiration for the upcoming season and beyond.

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Cervar rejuvenates squad and sets realistic goals

After hitting their VELUX EHF Champions League peak by reaching the quarter-finals in 2013 and 2014, things have changed at Metalurg.

With another huge exodus prior to this season, coach Lino Cervar is implementing a new, young team in the Macedonian capital.

While on the domestic front their clear target is to remain second in the ranking chasing champions Vardar, the aim for the Champions League is to simply win more than last season.

Some young Macedonian and Serbian players have arrived at Metalurg, but some big names such as Janko Bozovic (now in Lisbon) have left.

For Cervar, who steered the Croatian national team to several trophies and medals, including the Olympic triumph in 2004, building a new team is a major challenge: “We have plenty of potential among our young players, who are the future of Macedonian men’s handball.”

Facing teams like Montpellier, La Rioja or Medvedi, Cervar expects a tough race for the playoffs: “This season we will play in a much stronger group than last time. Thus, it will be very difficult to snatch victories. Montpellier are very experienced, but we can learn a lot from them. La Rioja are well-known in Skopje, but we will be competitive in both matches. Medvedi’s story is similar to ours, after major success they dropped off, but rose again. And against Elverum we want to take revenge for last season’s defeat.”

Looking at the general development of the club, Cervar remains realistic: “After all that’s happened over the last two years, we feel excited to face the best teams in the world. Currently, we are far away from the level we had when we saw major Champions League success, but we are working hard to get back to where we were.”

Zarko Pesevski shares the opinion of his coach: “We want to show that we are able to be competitive and dream of the big results our past or older teammates achieved some years before,” says the Metalurg team captain, adding: “We are ready to fight, regardless of our opponents. At the very least, we want to double the number of victories in the group phase after only two in the previous season.”

Metalurg started their preparation in the Macedonian ski region Mavrovo, and then they played two big tournaments in Struga (FYR Macedonia) and Kanjiza (Serbia). After a one-year absence the Macedonian runners-up are back in the SEHA Liga, and their first matches against Vardar, TATRAN Presov and Brest will be perfect tests ahead of their Champions League opener against Elverum.


HC Metalurg Skopje (MKD)

Qualification for the 2016/17 VELUX EHF Champions League season: Macedonian runners-ups

Newcomers:  Vojislav Brajovic (RK Maribor), Darko Dimitrievski (Csurgoi KK), Nemanja Obradovic (Valence Handball), Darko Arsic (Metaloplastika Sabac), Milos Dragas (Bergischer HC), Martin Marchec (Varazdin), Stefan Drogriski (Pelister Bitola), Goran Pecenkovski (HC Ohrid), Martin Tomovski (HC Prolet), Tomislav Jagurinovski (Vardar Skopje II), Filip Arsenovski (Vardar Skopje II)

Left the club: Janko Bozovic (Sporting Lisboa), Marko Buvinic (Handball Bregenz), Milorad Kukoski (Odorhei), Milos Vukovic (Spartak Subotica), Bojan Madzovski (Pelister Bitola), Marko Matic, Stevan Vujovic, Luka Mrakovcic, Milan Sajin (all unknown)

Coach: Lino Cervar (since 2009)

Team captain: Zarko Pesevski

Opponents in the group phase: La Rioja, Medvedi, Montpellier, Elverum and winner of qualification tournament 1 in Group C

VELUX EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2016/17 season): 9
Quarter-final (2): 2012/13, 2013/14
Last 16 (1): 2011/12
Group Phase (4): 2006/07, 2008/09, 2014/15, 2015/16
Qualification (1): 2010/11

Other European Cup records:
Nine participations in other EC competitions

Macedonian champions: 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014
Macedonian Cup winner: 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013

TEXT: Björn Pazen / bc