10 reasons why this will finally be Veszprém’s year
Telekom Veszprém HC have never won the EHF Champions League, but they have been within touching distance in recent years.
After an early exit at the Last 16 stage last season, the Hungarian powerhouse is back and here are 10 reasons why it may finally be their turn to win the VELUX EHF FINAL4.
1. The coach
It took some time for David Davis to enjoy success after taking over from Ljubomir Vranjes early this season, but once he managed to have his players adapt to his ideas, the Spaniard has turned the club’s fortunes around and has proved to be a great success.
The arrival of Arpad Sterbik has boosted Veszprém enormously in the goalkeeper department. Apart from being a reinforcement, the Spanish veteran has also helped teammate Roland Mikler become keener and sharper, much to the benefit of the team. Simply put, Veszprém have the best goalkeeper duo at the VELUX EHF FINAL4.
3. Mate Lekai
Lekai has already been one of the best playmakers in the world for a number of years, but the 30-year-old Hungarian international has progressed even further under Davis. If he can maintain his level in Cologne, opposing defenders will be in for a tough time.
4. Kentin Mahé
The 28-year-old French international’s transfer from SG Flensburg-Handewitt has been good for Veszprém and for the man himself. Mahé has developed even further in Hungary, not least mentally, and he is a brilliant supplement to Lekai in the playmaker position. His ability to also play on the left wing is less called for in Veszprém, as we shall see next.
With Dragan Gajic and Gasper Marguc on the right and Manuel Strlek with Dejan Manaskov on the left, David Davis has two brilliant pairs of wings. Regardless of who he sends on court, a solid performance is guaranteed. Only Xavi Pascual and Barca Lassa are in the same luxurious situation on the wings.
The Veszprém defence has improved considerably throughout the season, with the centre block being particularly solid. This obviously also has something to do with the strengthening of the goalkeeper pair, as mentioned above. It is easier to defend when you can feel safe and secure with a strong goalkeeper behind you.
Of course, Veszprém have always been hungry to win Europe’s top flight, but their semi-final against PGE Vive Kielce will offer them added motivation. The penalty shootout defeat in that 2016 final, after Veszprém let slip a nine-goal lead with 14 minutes left is a defeat which everyone at the club will be eager to avenge and their appetite for a potential final will be even greater.
Nothing gives a team as much self-confidence as winning does. Veszprém have been winning a lot lately and will inevitably be coming to Cologne with enormous belief in themselves. The only team to really cause them trouble lately were Hungarian arch rivals MOL-Pick Szeged, who defeated Veszprém twice in Hungary, but they will not be in Cologne.
9. Depth of their squad
Where Veszprém’s massive squad used to be a problem, as it is hard to make so many star players happy at the same time, the depth and the versatility of the squad has turned into an asset, as everyone seems to be familiar with their role in the team and bought into the plan.
10. The team
Last but definitely not least, the fact the Veszprém now appear as a team will play a decisive role in the LANXESS arena on 1 and 2 June. A bunch of great individualists are now functioning as a unit, which is an important reason behind the team’s success recently and will be vital to coming out on top of the two-day event.