Velenje's Medved: "We are masters of our destiny"Article
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FEATURE: The Slovenian side face an all-or-nothing game against group leaders Skjern in Denmark but the captain is confident that his team will reach the play-offs

Velenje's Medved: "We are masters of our destiny"

Winning their group, finishing second, or missing the play-offs: all options are still open for Rk Gorenje Velenje going into their final VELUX EHF Champions League Group C game.

The vice-champions of Slovenia travel to Denmark to face group leaders Skjern Håndbold on Sunday.

“We are still kind of masters of our own destiny,” Velenje captain Niko Medved says.

Victory will make Velenje the group winners

A victory on Sunday will make Velenje the group winners, with the prospect of a play-off duel against the runners-up from Group D, Motor Zaporozhye.

With a draw against Skjern, Velenje will secure second place and get Group D winners Montpellier HB as their play-off opponents.

And even a defeat could still be enough for Velenje, but Medved’s team would then need a helping hand from Elverum. Also playing on Sunday, the Norwegian side host Abanca Ademar Leon, the only team that can keep Velenje out of the play-offs - but only if they win at Elverum.

“It is going to be difficult not to think about what is going on in Norway. But we are focused on our own game,” Medved says.

According to Medved, Skjern have “the best team in the group” but he still fancies Velenje’s chances.

“We beat them once, so we have proved that we know how to do it,” the left wing says. “When we started the season, we had a goal to reach the top two spots in the group. Now we have the chance to do this.”

Medved netted five goals when Velenje beat Skjern 31:29 on home court in Round 3. It was their third straight win, and with the maximum six points in the bag, the Slovenian team seemed on an easy way to the play-offs.

Trying to make the game slower

But Velenje then suffered back-to-back defeats at Kadetten Schaffhausen and Elverum, which remained in the race for a play-off spot until last week.

“I am sure the Norwegian side are still motivated to end the season with a victory,” Medved says. “But we have our own fight. Skjern play very fast, as most clubs from Denmark, and they are good in fast breaks. Our goal is to stop that transition, to try to make the game slower.”

Medved has been the team’s captain since the 2013/14 season, the last time Velenje reached the Last 16.

In that season Paris Saint-Germain ultimately stopped them, but the French powerhouse had to come back after losing the first leg in Slovenia 30:28.

“It was a great experience to play in the elimination round,” Medved looks back. “We played against reigning champions Hamburg in the group, and also against Flensburg, which eventually won the trophy that season.”

Medved, whose surname means ‘bear’ in English, has always been one of the key players for Velenje in both attack and defence.

“It may have something to do with my surname,” he says. “I never give up. I always fight and give my best in every match. At least I try to.”

TEXT: Uroš Volk / ew