Flensburg want to deny Montpellier first ticket to CologneArticle
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Flensburg want to deny Montpellier first ticket to Cologne

The road to dream destination Cologne is approaching the end.

The VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-final opens at Flensburg on Wednesday night, where the hosts lock horns with Montpellier Handball. After eliminating Barcelona, the French side are confident they can finally end their FINAL4 curse.


SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) vs Montpellier Handball (FRA)
Wednesday, 18 April, 19:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

Just like Kiel against Vardar, this is a duel between two Champions League winners already in the quarter-final. Flensburg-Handewitt lifted the trophy in 2014 while Montpellier’s triumph dates back to 2003 - for the first and only victory by a French team.

For the fourth time since the implementation of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in the 2009/10 season, Montpellier have made it to the quarter-final, though they have yet to get to Cologne.

On the other hand, Flensburg have been highly efficient as their only FINAL4 appearance ended with the trophy.

Last season, both teams lost in the quarter-final: Flensburg against eventual champions Vardar, Montpellier only just against Veszprém.

The teams have a rich history in the competition. Their six duels include the legendary quarter-final from 2004/05. While Montpellier sensationally won the first leg 36:22 at home, Flensburg looked like making up the 14-goal deficit in the second leg as they were leading 32:18 just seconds before the final buzzer - until Grégory Anquetil converted a direct free throw to send Montpellier through.

The last matches between both teams, however, ended in a close victory for the German side: 31:30 and 28:27 in the Last 16 two years ago.

As both sides have been eliminated from their domestic cup competitions this season, they can fully focus on their national leagues, and on the Champions League.

Montpellier’s win over Barcelona in the Last 16 has sent a warning to Flensburg.

“It was impressive how they came back in the second leg,” Flensburg coach Maik Machulla says. “We have huge respect, mainly for Montpellier’s defence. We can expect 120 minutes of physical tough handball and a rock-solid defence wall.”

Flensburg-Handewitt eased past Kristianstad in the Last 16. Now Machulla hopes to crown his first season as head coach with a trip to Cologne: “If you are there, anything can happen. But it is much harder to get to the FINAL4.”

Montpellier will second that. On their way to what should become their first FINAL4 berth, Montpellier dominated Group D and beat Spanish side Leon twice in the play-offs before eliminating Barcelona in the Last 16.

“We all dream to make it to Cologne but we all know that it is extremely hard to stand the heat against a German team,” Swiss-born Montpellier goalkeeper Nikola Portner says. “But I guess we have enough confidence after eliminating Barcelona to travel to Flensburg with our heads up high.”

TEXT: Björn Pazen / ew