Velenje striving for more in the EHF Cup
Qualifying for the Men’s EHF Cup group phase was one of RK Gorenje Velenje’s main objectives this season, and they achieved this goal by remaining unbeaten in the qualification rounds.
The traditional Slovenian club are now aiming for more success, although they realise that facing SC Magdeburg, HBC Nantes and Abanca Ademar Leon in group C will be tough.
Three questions before the Men’s EHF Cup group phase:
What will the many changes in the team – four players out and five players in – mean to the team?
It has taken some time to get the new players integrated in the team, and injury trouble at the start of the season has not made this process any easier.
However, the team’s play improved in the autumn – in both the EHF Cup qualifiers and Slovenian league. Having played one match less than Celje in the Slovenian league, Velenje are in second place but sit 10 points adrift of the leaders.
Can the current Velenje team live up to the club’s fine EHF Cup traditions?
Having reached the final in 2009 and the final tournament in 2015, Velenje may face certain difficulties getting that far this season, as manager Janez Gams realises.
“I expect that we will offer good resistance and try to collect as many points as possible.
“The outcome is hard to predict, but I can promise that all we will take all the opportunities that are offered to us. Where that will lead us, we will see at the end of March,” he said.
What can Velenje achieve in group C?
With SC Magdeburg, HBC Nantes and Abanca Ademar Leon as their opponents, it definitely looks like a tough group for Velenje.
Team captain David Miklavcic is well aware of the challenges ahead. He said: “I think it is a hard group. But for our young players this is a good opportunity to get a feel how good teams in Europe play.
“We will do our best and try to win as many points as possible,” said the captain.
Under the spotlight: Matic Verdinek
Left wing Matic Verdinek and Croatian right wing Vlado Matanovic are crucial to Velenje’s attack.
With 32 goals in the qualifiers, Verdinek played a major part in Velenje making in it all the way to the group phase. He is essential for Velenje in both positional attacks and on fast breaks.
Having overcome injury trouble at the beginning of the season, Velenje enter the group phase with fresh optimism after progressing from the qualifiers.
“Joining the EHF Cup group phase was a great success for our young team. The matches that lie ahead of us will be a huge challenge for us, but we look forward to it,” said manager Janez Gams.
“Matches at such a high level are a good opportunity for further development of the team and players,” he added.
What the numbers say
This season is Gorenje Velenje's 27th season in European Cup handball.
Since 1994 their only absent seasons were the 1999/2000 and 2000/01 seasons.
RK Gorenje Velenje (SLO)
Qualified for the Men’s EHF Cup group phase: 64:53 vs RK Metaloplastika Sabac (R2), 47:42 vs HC Metalurg (R3)
Newcomers: Vladimir Bojanic (RK Trimo Trebnje), Andris Celmins (RK Maribor Branic), Grega Oklešcen (MRK Krka), Aljaz Panjtar (RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko), Zan Sol (RK Slovenj Gradec 2011)
Left the club: Andraz Kete (MRK Krka), Nikola Spelic (RK Maribor Branic), Darko Stojnic (HC PPD Zagreb), Miljan Vujovic (RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko)
Coach: Zoran Jovicic (since 2018)
Team captain: David Miklavcic
European Cup records
EHF Champions League:
Last 16 (4): 2005/06, 2009/10, 2012/13, 2013/14
Main round (1): 2007/08
Group phase (2): 2004/05, 2017/18
Final (1): 2008/09
Final tournament (1): 2014/15
Semi-final (1): 1994/95
Quarter-final (3): 1996/97, 2010/11, 2011/12
Group phase: (1): 2019/20
Cup Winners’ Cup:
Semi-final (1): 2003/04
Quarter-final (1): 2004/05
Last 16 (2): 1997/98, 1998/99
Slovenian league: 3 titles (2009, 2012, 2013)
Slovenian cup: 2 titles (2003, 2019)