Spanish eyes in the duel for the triple crown

Gonzales- Sabate

The only two sides, who won the SEHA - Gazprom League two times so far, fight for their third strike on Sunday in Brest, Belarus. The final of Vardar Skopje vs Telekom Veszprem is the re-match of last years’ duel for the trophy, won by the Hungarian side, which could win the title for the third straight time.

Final of the SEHA - Gazprom League 2016/17:

Vardar Skopje (MKD) vs Telekom Veszprem (HUN)

Sunday, 9 April, 21:00 local times (20:00 CET)

The two best teams of the two last seasons, two Spanish coaches, two Champions League quarter-finalists - the final of the 2016/17 SEHA - Gazprom League season combines the best of the best in this competition. In the duel of the 2012 and 2014 champions Vardar and the 2015 and 2016 champions Veszprem, the new record winner of this competition will be confirmed.

Veszprem had won the 2016 edition of the Final 4 in Varazdin, Croatia, by a 28:26 victory, but in the regular season, Vardar turned the tide: The Macedonian champions beat the Hungarian side on home ground 29:22 and were the only team to take a point from the Veszprem Arena (28:28). Thus, for the first time ever, Vardar were the winners of the regular season by 47 points, three points ahead of Veszprem.

The final duel is imprinted by two Spanish coaches, who are also at the helm of the respective national teams: Raul Gonzales just took over Macedonia from Lino Cervar, while Javier Sabate led Hungary to the quarter-final of the 2017 World Championship. The final at Brest will be Sabate’s last SEHA - Gazprom League match, as he will be replaced by Ljubomir Vranjes (currently Flensburg) from next season. So the Veszprem players will definitely be out for a great SEHA Gazprom League farewell present for Sabate.

Like in the three previous seasons, both SEHA - Gazprom finalists qualified for the Champions League quarter-finals too. Vardar for the first time in their club history finished the first stage as group winners, leaving defending Champions League winners Kielce behind. After skipping the Last16, Vardar now will face Flensburg, hoping for another premiere, their first ever ticket to the Final4 in Cologne. Veszprem had already been there three times, including the 2015 and 2016 finals, which they both lost.

In contrast, Veszprem became the first ever club in the SEHA - Gazprom League Veszprem to defend a title - after taking their first trophy 2015 on home ground. Like their final opponent, Veszprem can count on a wide and well-rehearsed squad. For example, several Spaniards will fight for the title, Cristian Ugalde on Veszprem’s side, outgoing Alex Dujshebaev, Joan Canellas, Jorge Maqueda and Arpad Sterbk (former Veszprem player) on Vardar’s side.

With Momir Ilic (77 strikes for Veszprem) and Timur Dibirov (75 for Vardar) two prolific aces of European handball top the internal top scorer lists of the two finalists. A crucial factor will be the performance of the goalkeepers, with Roland Mikler/Mirko Alilovic on Veszprem’s side and the trio Sterbik/Milic/Angelov on Vardar’s side.

Even though Zagreb missed the final, a huge number of Croatian players will be on court: Igor Karacic, Luka Cindric, Ivan Cupic for Vardar and Mirko Alilovic and Renato Sulic for Veszprem.

While Vardar had an easy-going evening in their semi-final against Zagreb (36:28), Veszprem like in 2016 needed to go through the penalty shoot-out to defeat Brest (33:31).