Can Barça make it three in a row?
After winning back-to-back EHF Champions Leagues titles over the last two seasons, Barça start as red-hot favourites to claim the Machineseeker EHF Champions League 2022/23 trophy.
Three title wins in a row is what Barça are chasing in the new season, after lifting the trophy in 2021 and 2022. Barça are aiming to match… Barça as the only team to win the EHF Champions League three times in a row, a feat they pulled off as part of their run of five victories from 1996 to 2000.
However, no team has done so since the EHF FINAL4 started in 2010 – in fact Barça were the first team to win consecutive titles since then.
- Barça will play their 26th EHF Champions League season in 2022/23
- the Spanish side holds the record for most titles won in the competition (10), including the last two editions
- last season, they defeated Kielce in the final in Cologne after dominating Kiel in the semi-final
- players such as Ali Zein and Angel Fernandez left the club in the summer, and only three new faces have joined the roster
- major signings for next season include goalkeeper Emil Nielsen (Nantes) and two Swedish players arriving from German clubs: Hampus Wanne (Flensburg) and Jonathan Carlsbogard (Lemgo)
Most important question: Is the team still hungry for another title?
If there are any doubts about Barça’s motivation to get to the TruckScout24 EHF FINAL4 2023, then captain Gonzalo Perez de Vargas’ blunt statement that “we want this win again” removes any doubt about their drive and determination to ignore the many delights of Barcelona’s seaside location.
While some other clubs might have felt the need to bring some new faces in after two successful runs, Barça decided to stick to their guns.
Danish wunderkind Emil Nielsen will be an alternative to Perez de Vargas between the posts, while Hampus Wanne has shown in Flensburg what a goal-machine he is. Three new players among a team that is still on the hunt for success sounds like a good recipe for another amazing season.
Under the spotlight: Aleix Gomez
The offensive right side was Barça’s strongest point last season, when only two players reached the 100-goal mark: Barça's right wing Aleix Gomez and right back Dika Mem.
At 25, Gomez has already won everything with the club he started playing for when he was 12. Penalties, wing shots, fast breaks, it seems like he can score from everywhere. Gomez delivers, game after game, with grace and determination. Watch out for another amazing season.
How they rate themselves
In 2020/21, Barça enjoyed a perfect season with 20 wins from 20 matches. And while 2021/22 ended with a trophy again, it wasn’t as smooth a ride.
There was a rare defeat in the Palau Blaugrana, to Kielce in the group phase, but it has left Gonzalo Perez de Vargas counting down the days to meeting the Polish side again: “This is the game that I’m expecting the most. They beat us in our home, and we don’t want that to happen again.”
Barça will be among the favourites for the title, despite featuring in a group stacked with big names, as they take on THW Kiel, HBC Nantes, Aalborg Håndbold, and Lomza Industria Kielce.
“We know it is going to be a very difficult road to play the EHF FINAL4,” coach Antonio Carlos Ortega said. “But we will do our best in order to make history again.”
Did you know?
After his record 2020/21 season when he netted 100 goals, Dika Mem was the target for many European powerhouses. In the spring the French left-hander decided to extend his contract until 2027. It was a huge mark of confidence between the two parties, who want to keep on writing history together.
After moving to Spain in 2016, the now 25-year-old is in line to play 11 seasons for Barça. If their rivals think he may be slowing down by then, they should note that he will only just have turned 30.
What the numbers say
Six years, almost to the day, is how long Barça remained undefeated on home turf.
Prior to last season, you had to travel back in time to December 2015 to find a team able to take the points at Palau Blaugrana. The victors? Polish side Kielce, who did it again last season by winning 32:30 in Spain before also taking both points in the return match.
Arrivals and departures
Arrivals: Emil Nielsen (HBC Nantes), Jonathan Carlsbogard (TBV Lemgo Lippe), Hampus Wanne (SG Flensburg-Handewitt)
Departures: Ali Zein (CS Dinamo Bucuresti), Leo Maciel (SL Benfica), Youssef Ben Ali (PAUC Handball), Angel Fernandez (Limoges Hand)
EHF Champions League:
Participations (including 2022/23 season): 26
Winners (10) : 1995/96, 1996/97, 1997/98, 1998/99, 1999/00, 2004/05, 2010/11, 2014/15, 2020/21, 2021/22
Final (4): 2000/01, 2009/10, 2012/13, 2019/20
Semi-finals (4): 2007/08, 2013/14, 2016/17, 2018/19
Quarter-finals (4): 2005/06, 2006/07, 2011/12, 2015/16
Last 16 (2): 2003/04, 2017/18
Main Round (1): 2008/09
EHF Cup: Winners 2002/03, Runners-up 2001/02 Cup Winners’ Cup: Winners 1993/94, 1994/95
IHF Super Globe: 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019
Spanish league: 29 titles (1969, 1973, 1980, 1982, 1986, 1988-92, 1996-2000, 2003, 2006, 2011-22)
Spanish cup: 26 titles (1969, 1972-73, 1983-85, 1988, 1990, 1993-94, 1997-98, 2000, 2004, 2007, 2009-10, 2014-2022)