Russians make maiden voyage
After four consecutive years of reaching the group phase of the VELUX EHF Champions League, HC St. Petersburg are taking their first steps in the EHF Cup – the first Russian side to do so at this stage.
St. Petersburg have finished as runners-up in their domestic league six times in a row - behind Chekhovskie Medvedi on each occasion - but will be aiming for top spot in Group B after beating Hungarian side Tatabanya to qualify.
Dmitry Torgovanov’s men will face Constanta (ROU), Granollers (ESP) and Holstebro (DEN) in the group phase, but boast a team full of international talent and have a coach in his fifth season in charge.
One key man missing, however, is left winger Sergey Kuzmin, after a knee injury ruled him out for the rest of the season.
The Neva-based club failed to advance to the knockout stages of the Champions League in each of the past four seasons, but club director Sergey Ziza is cautiously confident they can make that jump this time around.
“All four teams in our group are almost equals, so it will be hard for us to make it to the quarter-finals, but this is our goal,” he said.
“Maybe our expectations will be changed, because first of all we have to see the level of our opponents.”
Team captain Eldar Nasyrov remains humble too.
He added: “It will be interesting to play against our opponents, at the same time I hope that our goal will not only be the participation, but also a good result."
Three questions for coach Dmitry Torgovanov:
eurohandball.com: What are your expectations for the EHF Cup Group Phase - regarding your objectives and your group opponents?
Dmitry Torgovanov: “It will be difficult – for example we know very well the level of the Romanian team Constanta, who played in the 2014 EHF Cup Finals. Teams from Spain and Denmark are traditionally strong too. But we will try to go through quarter-finals.”
eurohandball.com: What does participation in the EHF Group Phase mean to you and your club?
Dmitry Torgovanov: “There are two main reasons to participate in the EHF Cup. First of all this is the experience for our players, which they cannot get playing only in national championships, and second, the EHF Cup is a good opportunity to make handball more interesting for our spectators because now they can see many strong teams from different European countries.”
eurohandball.com: Which teams are your personal favourites to reach the EHF Cup Finals?
Dmitry Torgovanov: “I think that teams from Germany and Denmark have the biggest chance to reach this goal.”
St. Petersburg HC (RUS)
The road to the group phase:
Qualification Round 3: St. Petersburg vs Tatabanya 22:23, 32:24
Coach: Dmitriy Torgovanov (since 2009)
Newcomers: Taras Dryapochko (Skif Krasnodar), Hleb Harbuz (Dinamo Minsk), Victor Kireev (Kaustik Volgograd), Denis Mirzoev (Skif Krasnodar)
Left the club: Igor Polyakov (end of career), Alexander Sanashkin (end of career), Dmitry Chernykh and Dmitry Lauzhin (both without clubs), Yury Semenov (Dinamo Astrakhan)
EHF European Cup competition records
VELUX EHF Champions League:
Group Phase: 2010/2011, 2011/2012, 2012/2013, 2013/14
Other EC records:
Russian champions: 1993 (runners-up: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)
Russian cup winners: (runners-up 2014)Author: Björn Pazen / jh