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COUNTDOWN #7: BM Logroño La Rioja (ESP). Spanish side wants to progress from European group phase for first time in seven seasons

Ambitions are high at BM Logroño La Rioja, who are back in a European competition after one year.

The team has been overhauled this summer, with players from Belarus, Brazil and Cuba being ushered in, with influential players like Miguel Sanchez Migallon leaving for Lomza Vive Kielce.

The new iteration of La Rioja looks interesting on paper, especially after clearing two qualification rounds, including a superb 61:58 aggregate win against domestic league rivals Abanca Ademar Leon.

If La Rioja can maintain their home form, they could be a dark horse in this group, where teams from some of the best leagues in Europe collide.

Main facts:

  • BM Logroño La Rioja have made a fresh start, signing eight players and letting go of another eight players
  • La Rioja have not progressed from the group phase of any European competition since 2014/15, when they reached the Last 16 of the EHF Champions League
  • Brazilian back Leonardo Dutra Ferreira is their top scorer coming into the group phase, with 32 goals from the qualification rounds
  • head coach Miguel Angel Velasco Encinas has been at the club for 13 years, both as a player and as a coach

Most important question: Can they translate their home form into the group phase?

La Rioja’s form is subject to mishaps. However, after a loss against Antequera in the Spanish domestic league, they have been on the rise, with crucial wins against Abanca Ademar Leon, both in the EHF European League Men and in the Spanish ASOBAL league.

At home they are invincible, counting wins against Aguas Santas Milaneza and Leon in the European competition and against BM Sinfin in the Spanish league.

Games against SC Magdeburg, PAUC or IK Sävehof will surely test their mettle, but a job well done on home court could translate in improving their chances for reaching the quarter-finals.

Their aim is surely to progress from the group stage of an European competition for the first time since the 2014/15 season, when they were eliminated by Telekom Veszprém HC in the Last 16 of the EHF Champions League.

How they rate themselves

Ready to make their comeback to European handball. BM Logrono La Rioja missed the cut for a European competition last season, but right now, they are ready to make their mark in the EHF European League Men.

“After not taking part in the competition last year, we really want to play the EHF European League again, we will fight again against great teams from Europe,” said the Spanish team’s captain, Tomas Moreira Rodriguez.

Under the spotlight: Leonardo Dutra Ferreira

For a sharpshooter, Dutra Ferreira is pretty convincing, with his shots constantly hitting the 120 kph mark. The Brazilian left back, who joined La Rioja this summer after a year with EHF Finals participants Orlen Wisla Plock, has been crucial for the Spanish team’s ascension to the group phase of the EHF European League.

Dutra scored 32 times against Aguas Santas Milaneza and Abanca Ademar Leon, including a 12-goal outing against the Spanish rivals in the 34:30 win in the first leg.

Nicknamed ‘La Bestia’, Spanish for ‘Beast’, Dutra can easily tilt the balance into his team’s favour and will be crucial for La Rioja’s path through the group phase.

What the numbers say

2 – the Spanish side reached the semi-finals of the Men’s EHF Cup twice, in 2009/10 and 2010/11. Bith times they were trumped by a German side, TBV Lemgo and by Frisch auf Goppingen, respectively. This time, La Rioja will face SC Magdeburg, the reigning champions.

Did you know?

La Rioja’s 37-year-old coach, Miguel Angel Velasco Encinas, has spent over 13 years at the club as a player and as a coach.

A former centre back who played a game for the Spanish national team, Velasco Encinas signed for La Rioja in 2008 and never looked back, transitioning into a coach after representing his team in the EHF Champions League.

He recently signed a contract with the Spanish side until 2024, as the match between club and coach looks perfect.

Arrivals and departures

Arrivals: Aliaksandr Markelau (Cocks), Leonardo Domenech de Almeida (Al-Arabi Sports Club), Leonardo Dutra Ferreira (Orlen Wisla Plock), Ismael El Korchi Fernández (BM Guadalajara), Oleg Kisselev Kisseleva (Ademar León), Angel Jesús Rivero Noris (BM Benidorm), Javier Rodríguez Moreno (BM Guadalajara), Alex Rubiño Fernández (ASV Hamm-Westfalen).

Departures: Rangel Luan (BM Granollers), Erik Balenciaga (Fenix Toulouse Handball), Rudolph Hackbarth (BM Huesca), Miguel Sánchez Migallón Naranjo (Lomza Vive Kielce), Delcio Pina (Ángel Ximenez Puente Genil), Gabriel Cerreta Jung (retired), Oswaldo Cerreta Dos Santos (Billiere Pau Pyrénées), Domen Sikosek Pelko (HC Kriens-Luzern).

Past achievements:

EHF Champions League
Last 16 (1): 2014/15
Group phase (3): 2013/14, 2015/16, 2016/17


EHF Cup: Semi-finals (2): 2009/10, 2010/11; Group phase (3): 2012/13, 2018/19, 2019/20

Spanish league: -
Spanish cup: - (finalists 2013, 2017)

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu