Valentin Porte eyes another Last 16 triumphArticle
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FEATURE: The Montpellier right back is looking forward to Sunday's Match of the Week when the French side hosts Barcelona

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Valentin Porte eyes another Last 16 triumph

For the second season in a row, Montpellier have made it out of the Groups C and D of the VELUX EHF Champions League to join the 16 best teams in Europe.

That the ticket for the play-offs was secured long before the end of the group phase was obviously a satisfaction. What followed were two victories against Abanca Ademar Leon to enter the Last 16. But for the current leader of the French league, it doesn't stop right there.

“Playing the Last 16 was the first goal we set ourselves,” right back Valentin Porte says. “And we knew that if we fulfilled it, plenty of good things would be waiting ahead.”

"Barcelona look a little bit like Kielce last season"

Montpellier are currently chasing different goals - but that is no big problem, says Porte: "We make no choice and we have not defined any priorities. We take game after game."

The first leg of Montpellier's Last 16 duel with FC Barcelona Lassa on Sunday at 17:00 hrs (live on will be the Match of the Week.

After beating Kielce at the same stage last season and giving Veszprém two tough matches in the quarter-finals, Montpellier want to play level with another big European side this season.

“Barcelona look to me a little bit like Kielce did last season,” Porte says. “They are able to play very well sometimes but they can also struggle a little bit more. They did against Kristianstad, but they also did when they lost in Nantes.”

The French national team player might have arrived in Hérault just 18 months ago, he feels like a Montpellier veteran already. He enjoys his side keeping up with formers Champions League winners.

“Even if the name Montpellier might not resonate as much as Barcelona, maybe because of the football, I hope it still means something to the handball fans,” Porte says. “The club won the Champions League in the past (in 2002/03), and I think we get a lot of respect and we are taken very seriously by our opponents. To be among the best in the Champions League is an honour, but it is also about putting the club in the place where it belongs.”

"I am doing everyhting to be ready, I am working like hell"

For Porte, Sunday’s game will be a special one as he meets many players who have been important to him in his young career. Dika Mem, Yanis Lenne, Timothey N'Guessan and Cédric Sorhaindo play with him on a regular basis under France’s colours, while he also shared some time with Gonzalo Perez de Vargas when he was still in Toulouse.

“It is one of the many details that make this game one that I am really looking forward to. It is always special when you play against your friends who play abroad. We don't get to see each other too often.”

After suffering an ankle injury when he came back from the EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia, Porte still doesn't feel 100 percent fit. But he hopes he will be back to full strength on Sunday.

“I am doing everything I can to be ready, I am working like hell. I am someone who needs to be playing a lot, who needs a rhythm,” he says, adding with a smile: “But even if I was only 80 percent ready, I couldn't have missed the game versus Barcelona!”

TEXT: Kevin Domas / ew