FC Barcelona Lassa seeking ninth championship in 20 yearsArticle
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VELUX EHF Champions League Countdown: FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP)

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FC Barcelona Lassa seeking ninth championship in 20 years

It is a jubilee year for the record winners of the EHF Champions League. For the 20th time, FC Barcelona Lassa are a part of Europe’s top handball competition!

In the previous 19 years, the Catalan team has been semi-finalist 13 times, finalist 11 times and they have won the competition eight times - impressive numbers!

But last season, Barcelona joined the fate of every other VELUX EHF FINAL4 winner before - they did not defend their title in Cologne.

In two thrilling quarter-final encounters against THW Kiel, Barcelona missed the qualification for the tournament for the second time, similar to 2012 when they were also the defending champions.

After winning their 23rd championship title in Spain, their sixth in a row, the squad of Xavi Pascual has undergone several changes.

World class goalkeeper, Danijel Saric, was traded to Qatar and was replaced by Macedonian Borko Ristovski. In addition, experienced players such as Marko Kopljar (Veszprem), Daniel Sarmiento (Saint Raphael), Eduardo Gurbindo (Nantes) and Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson (Rhein-Neckar Löwen) all left the club for a new adventure.

On the other hand, FC Barcelona Lassa signed a few of highly talented young guns from all over Europe, including the two Frenchmen, Dika Mem (Tremblay) and Timothey N’Guessan (Chambery), as well as Dane Lasse Andersson (Kolding).

In addition, one ‘forgotten son’ returned to his home club, where his career first began: Valero Rivera junior (from Nantes), the son of current Qatar coach and former Barca coach, Valero Rivera. Rivera is the only coach in the history of the EHF Champions League to win the trophy five times.

As per usual, in the upcoming season, Barcelona belongs to the list of favourites for making it to the VELUX EHF FINAL4. To clinch the berth for this pinnacle event is the goal of Barcelona coach, Xavi Pascual. “We will try to go all the way and play good matches,” Pascual says. “Once we are in Cologne, we will continue to fight for the title,” adds team captain Victor Tomas.

Coach Pascual’s team was drawn into the intense group A, with a total of five VELUX EHF FINAL4 hopefuls: Veszprem, Kiel, Flensburg, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona. “This group phase will demonstrate the top level of the best clubs in the world,” Pascual underlines.

Also, as his side does not have any major competitors in the Spanish Asobal League, Tomas is happy to have such a strong group. “To have tough games during the regular season will be good for our development and for our preparation leading up to the decisive encounters.”

FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP)

Qualification for the 2016/17 VELUX EHF Champions League season: Spanish champions
Newcomers: Borko Ristovski (Rhein Neckar Löwen), Joan Saubich (Aix-En-Provence), Dika Mem (Tremblay), Lasse Andersson (Kolding), Timothey N’Guessan (Chambery), Valero Rivera jun (Nantes)
Left the club: Danjel Saric (Qatar), Marko Kopljar (Veszprem), Daniel Sarmiento (Saint Raphael), Eduardo Gurbindo (Nantes), Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson (Rhein Neckar Löwen), Carlos Ruesga (Sporting Lisboa)
Coach: Xavi Pascual (since February 2009)
Team captain: Victor Tomas
Opponents in the group phase: Veszprem, PSG, Plock, Bjerringbro, Flensburg, Schaffhausen and Kiel in group A

VELUX EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2016/17 season): 20
Winner (8): 1995/96, 1996/97, 1997/98, 1998/99, 1999/2000, 2004/05, 2010/11, 2014/15
Final (3): 2000/01, 2009/10, 2012/13
Semi-final (2): 2007/08, 2013/14
Quarter-final (4): 2005/06, 2006/07, 2011/12, 2015/16
Last 16 (1): 2003/04
Main round (1): 2008/09

Other EC records:
EHF Cup:
Winner: 2002/03
Finalist: 2001/02
Cup Winners Cup:
Winner: 1993/94, 1994/95

Spanish champion: 1968/69, 197/73, 1979/80, 1981/82, 1985/86, 1987/88, 1988/89, 1989/90, 1990/91, 1991/92, 1995/96, 1996/97, 1997/98, 1998/99, 1999/2000, 2002/03, 2005/06, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16
Spanish (King's) Cup winner: 1968/69, 1971/72, 1972/73, 1982/83, 1983/84, 1984/85, 1987/88, 1989/90, 1992/93, 1993/94, 1996/97, 1997/98, 1999/2000, 2003/04, 2006/07, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16
Asobal Cup winner: 1994/95, 1995/96, 1999/2000, 2000/01, 2001/02, 2009/10, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16

TEXT: Björn Pazen/tm