For the fourth time in history of the SEHA – Gazprom League, Telekom Veszprem are part of the competition, for the fourth time, they made it to the Final 4 and for the fourth time, they face Meshkov Brest at the final event of the ninth season of the SEHA – Gazprom League. Same occurs for Meshkov Brest - in their eighth season, they made it to their eighth Final 4.
But in contrast to two-times winners Veszprem (2015, 2016), Meshkov Brest never won the trophy. The only time, the Belarusian champions made it to the final, they were beaten by Veszprem, and how: the 32:21 at Veszprem in 2015 was the biggest gap ever in a final match of the competition.
In 2016 (24:21) and 2017 (33:31), Veszprem had beaten Brest in the semi-finals in Varazdin and Brest, so now, Meshkov hope for the chance to take revenge. But the season balance of both sides speaks a different question prior to the third ever semi of Veszprem and Meshkov Brest: The Hungarian record champions had beaten Meshkov twice in the group phase of the SEHA – Gazprom League (28:27 in Brest, 32:23 at home) and twice in the group phase of the EHF Champions League (37:30 in Brest and 31:25 at home).
The semi is the second one ever (and the second year in a row), when at the SEHA – Gazprom League Final 4, two Spanish coaches fight for the final spot: In 2019, in Brest, the hosts were coached by Manolo Cadenas and were eliminated by Vardar and Roberto Garcia Parrondo.
Now David Davis (Veszprem) faces Raul Alonso (Brest) in their first-ever Final 4 duel in those positions.
One player changed sides from Veszprem to Brest before the start of this season, Polish international Pawel Paczkowski, who will face his former teammates. Veszprem bolstered their squad by two Spanish EURO champions, goalkeeper Rodrigo Corrales, who arrives from PSG and replaces legendary Arpad Sterbik, and right back Jorge Maqueda, who arrived from Szeged and had been the winner of the SEHA – Gazprom League with Vardar before.
Veszprem had finished Group B of the regular SEHA – Gazprom League season on top, with eight victories and two defeats, funny enough against Metaloplastika and Eurofarm Pelister - two teams, who failed on their way to Zadar. Meshkov Brest took six victories and were defeated four times to finish third in this group.
While the Hungarian side only needed to play eleven matches on their way to Zadar (as the second quarter-final against Vojvodina was canceled by the visitors), Meshkov Brest already have played 14 matches, but the form was constantly increasing, as the Belarusian side won all four knock-out matches against Beijing University (play-offs) and Motor Zaporozhye (quarter-finals).
Meshkov can count on the record-breaker of the season, right wing Mikita Vailupau. The Belarusian international is the current top scorer of the SEHA – Gazprom League with impressive 103 strikes, including the record for the biggest number of goals in a single match (20 against Metaloplastika) and 14 in one half (also against Metaloplastika). Besides, he was the best scorer of all SEHA – Gazprom League clubs at the EHF EURO 2020, only topped by Norwegian Sander Sagosen.
Thanks to Vailupau, Meshkov can count on the best attack of all four Final 4 participants (475 goals/33.9 per match), right ahead of Telekom Veszprem (30.6 per match). Best Telekom Veszprem scorers in the SEHA – Gazprom League so far are three wings, too: Manuel Strlek (33 goals), Dragan Gajic (32/left to France) and Dejan Manaskov (30).
Starting in Zadar, Veszprem have the chance to win four international trophies within nine months, as they are the only SEHA – Gazprom League club to be part of the EHF Champions League Final 4 in Cologne (28/29 December). Besides, they hope for two SEHA – Gazprom League titles and are among the favorites also for the 2020/21 EHF Champions League season, still waiting for their first trophy after four final defeats in 2002, 2015, 2016 and 2019. The only final, Telekom Veszprem had lost in the SEHA – Gazprom League, was in 2017 against Vardar.