After Men’s EHF EURO 2018 kept all the handball eyes looking towards Croatia in January, SEHA - Gazprom League is slowly, but in style, easing its way into the handball focus with some thrilling matches already behind us and with some both great and important yet to come. One of those will also surely be Balkan Clasico with Celje Pivovarna Lasko welcoming PPD Zagreb. As if matches between two rivals were not always tense and narrow enough, this one will also carry some additional significance as it might in the end prove to be crucial in race for regular season’s second place in SEHA - Gazprom League’s seventh season.
Just as a reminder, in their first match of the season Urban Lesjak and his 16 saves paved the way for his team towards an important point in Sutinska vrela sports hall in Zagreb as the game ended with a 25:25 draw.
Match is scheduled for Sunday (20.30 CET) in Zlatorog sports hall and will be broadcasted on ehf TV, Sport TV (Slovenia) and Arena Sport channels.
Branko Tamse, Celje Pivovarna Lasko coach:
Quite a long break is behind us. We miss competitive matches and are all looking forward to this match against PPD Zagreb. We also missed some players during the winter preparations because of their national team duties but I’m happy they all returned healthy. We have a lot of players on disposal now and I’m glad to say even Ivan Sliskovic is prepared and ready to go out there and compete. We know Zagreb well - they brought in a bunch of youngsters and have a new coach upon whose arrival a whole new different energy emerged. This will surely be an interesting match as we are both eager to start the second part of the season in the best possible way. Goal is to stick with our plan. I also have to say I expect Florijani to come and support us on Sunday.
Urban Lesjak, Celje Pivovarna Lasko goalkeeper:
I’m happy to be home, with my team. We did not see each other for a long time and now we’re both eagerly waiting for the opener. I see this as some kind of an addition to recently ended EURO in Croatia because we’ll play Croatian champs. We’re expecting a really tough match since both teams can already secure a place for themselves on F4 tournament. We know each other quite well so I don’t believe there will be any surprises really. I hope the great support we had on EURO will also be present at the club level and I’d like to invite all the fans to come and support us on Sunday evening.
Zlatko Saracevic, PPD Zagreb coach:
Match in Celje is coming after a long break during which we weren’t together which is obviously not the best of things for us. However, we’re aware of the situation - we have what we have at the moment and the goal is for each and every one of us to give our best. We’re playing against an exceptional team of Celje - they are playing really good this season and have pretty much same goals as we do. It won’t be easy but we’ll do our best to win.
Matej Hrstic, PPD Zagreb player:
We prepared well for this match, analyzed our opponents. We know Celje very well, we already played them once during the first part of the season. Of course we are going to Slovenia with a goal of delivering best possible performance and hopefully winning three points.