CSKA aiming to go all the wayArticle
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COUNTDOWN #12: CSKA (RUS). Last season’s DELO EHF FINAL4 participants are back with even bigger names

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The Russian team's debut season in the continental top flight was quite successful, as they reached the DELO EHF FINAL4.

Now CSKA want to confirm that they belong to that level, and with the new head coach and some changes in the squad, they hope to do well again.

Main facts bullet points

  • the Moscow-based club was founded just two years ago, in 2019
  • reached DELO EHF FINAL4 in their maiden European campaign last season
  • also became the Russian champion in 2020/21, ending a four-year Rostov's hegemony
  • coached by Florentin Pera, who replaced Olga Akopyan in the summer
  • eight players left the team in summer, and three others joined, including the top scorer of the DELO EHF Champions League in 2020/21 Ana Gros

Most important question: are CSKA already a European powerhouse?

The Moscow-based club is still a very young project, but also a really ambitious one, and they have already supported their high aspirations with impressive results.

CSKA's maiden campaign in the continental top flight saw some ups and downs, and midway through the season, the club even took a tough decision to replace head coach Jan Leslie with Olga Akopyan.

Yet ultimately the Russian side reached the DELO EHF FINAL4, and although they lost both matches in Budapest to finish fourth, the entire season was quite a success for CSKA, who also snatched the Russian championship title from Rostov-Don.

In the new season, they want to be at least as successful as in the 2020/21 and establish themselves as a European powerhouse. CSKA have a lot of quality in their squad, and while most of their key players have stayed in the team, the signing of Ana Gros from Brest Bretagne Handball should provide a further fire power.

Under the spotlight: Florentin Pera

Although Akopyan led the team to the DELO EHF FINAL4 and the Russian league title, she was seen as a caretaker for the final part of the season, and CSKA anyway intended to sign a new coach in summer.

The club's choice fell to the Romanian Florentin Pera, who had worked with the CSM Ramnicu Valcea in the three previous seasons, while Akopyan stayed at the team as his assistant.

The 41-year-old Pera, who started his coaching career at the age of 23, has worked with a number of Romanian clubs. In particular, he became the national champion with Valcea in 2019 and coached them in the DELO EHF Champions League in the two following seasons.

Working in Russia will be Pera's first experience abroad. He sees it as the biggest challenge in his career and hopes to succeed in Moscow.

How they rate themselves

"We want to at least fight for the EHF FINAL4. It is not an easy mission, we will have a difficult season with a very balanced group in the Champions League and a new format in the national league, but all this should motivate us to play at 100% of the team’s capacity," says Florentin Pera.

"It is our second season in the Champions League, so we are more experienced now. My biggest motivation is to fight for my team and to show my best handball against the strongest European teams. Playing at such a high level is already a motivation.

"The games against Vipers and Győr will be very exciting. We did not perform well against them in Budapest and of course we want to take revenge and prove that we are capable of more,” says team captain Darya Dmitrieva.

Did you know?

While CSKA have a Romanian head coach, the club mostly relies on Russian players. There are just four foreigners in their squad - North Macedonian right wing Sara Ristovska, line players Kathrine Heindahl (Denmark) and Viktoriya Shamanoukaya (Belarus) and the Slovenian right back Ana Gros.

What the numbers say

Playing for Brest Bretagne Handball, Gros became a top scorer of the 2020/21 DELO EHF Champions League season with 135 goals.

Newcomers and left the club

Newcomers: Florentin Pera (head coach, SCM Ramnicu Valcea), Ana Gros (Brest Bretagne Handball), Karina Sabirova (Astrakhanochka), Viktoriya Shamanouskaya (Handball Club Lada)

Left the club: Elena Utkina (CS Minaur Baia Mare), Sabina Jacobsen (Dunarea Braila), Olga Gorshenina (SCM Ramnicu Valcea), Chana Masson (HH Elite), Kseniya Trukhina (Kuban), Ekaterina Bobina (Kuban), Lada Samoilenko (Gomel), Eva Demidovich (finished career)

Past achievements

EHF Champions League
Participations (including 2021/22 season): 2
Fourth place (1): 2021

Russian league: 1 title (2021)

TEXT: Sergey