Dolenec puts Cologne in sights ahead of Montpellier exitArticle
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FEATURE: Soon to leave for Barcelona, Jure Dolenec is hoping for a fairytale exit from Montpellier as the French side fight for a place in the VELUX EHF FINAL4 at the weekend.

Dolenec puts Cologne in sights ahead of Montpellier exit

Over the course of four years playing in Montpellier, Jure Dolenec has become both a fan-favourite and one of the key elements in the French side. It was with sadness, then, that the fans learnt that the Slovenian right back would be leaving France to join Barcelona next season.

But before crossing the Spanish border, he wants to offer the club that brought him into the European spotlight one last gift.

“To be able to qualify and to go to the FINAL4 would be the perfect gift for the club and for the people running it. But it would also be a nice treat to myself!” he laughs. “Sunday will be the last time I play in the Champions League in Montpellier and it will be a very special occasion. We're going to give everything we can.”

Optimismi for Montpellier

The French team came back from playing Telekom Veszprém last weekend in the VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-finals with a three-goal deficit in their bags and the thought that they could have done better.

“We played good in the defence, but the offence was just okay. I think we can do much better but, let's face it, Veszprém must be saying the exact same thing to themselves too,” Dolenec reckons.

With only four goals scored, the 29-year-old right back did not meet his own high standards, after scoring 15 in two games against Kielce in the Last 16. Nevertheless after being thwarted by the Hungarian team's defence, Dolenec is philosophical.

“I don't expect to score 10 goals a game two times a week,” he says. “The main satisfaction is that someone took the duty and that we still managed to find solutions. I'm not focused on my personal statistics anyway.”

Despite not playing the game of his career in the Veszprém Arena, Dolenec feels that his team have got enough strength and enough confidence to turn the situation around.

“We've beaten Kielce twice, we've beaten Paris as well in March, all of this showing that we have the potential to beat FINAL4-level teams,” he explains. “We have got more experience, and maybe we've learnt to focus on ourselves more than our opponents now.”

Home advantage

And in this VELUX EHF FINAL4 quest, Montpellier will be able to count on their most reliable support: their fans. After travelling 20 hours by bus to support the team in Hungary, fan club 'Les Blue Fox' will, of course, back their favourites up in Bougnol on Sunday.

The arena has been the theatre of many turnarounds in the past. In the 2003 Champions League final Montpellier lost away to Portland San Antonio by eight goals, but secured a 12-goal victory at home.

Two years later, they overcame a nine-goal deficit in the first leg to defeat Kolding by 11, before beating Flensburg by 14 in Bougnol.

“This arena is special. It's small, it's getting old, but there's such a handball tradition in there, you can feel it in the air,” says Dolenec. “Sunday will be boiling and this will be very hard for Veszprém.”

Does he expect the atmosphere to be as hot as it was in Veszprém last Saturday?

“Well, they've got 3,000 fans, we've got only 500. But trust me these guys can make a lot of noise,” he concludes. And you can easily understand why Jure Dolenec would like to offer them a trip to Cologne before going away.

TEXT: Kevin Domas / jh