Friday, December 3

What happens to the Barça of handball?

  • After a defeat in the last two years, he adds four in a month and a half and club sources acknowledge that “the quality of the squad has dropped”

  • Ortega, the new coach, tries to introduce new concepts to a team with fewer players, weight losses and many injuries

Handball Barça had got used to winning almost everyone they played. In the last two seasons he had only lost one game, the 2020 Champions League final. In the previous season he won all the games and made a full of titles. In a month and a half he has already conceded four defeats. What’s going on? A shorter squad, with low weight and weighed down by injuries, chain three punctures in Europe.

Before the last Champions League final, Joan Laporta He wanted to promote a new project for the section after five years without achieving the continental scepter. Chose Antonio Carlos Ortega placeholder image, former member of the ‘dream team’ and coach of Hannover, as a relay from Xavi Pascual on the bench and also dispensed with the technical secretary, David barrufet. Knowing that he would not continue, Pasqui signed the perfect season with the 61st victory that meant his 61st title as a Barça player, six in this last season in which he had celebrated the League, the King’s Cup, the Asobal Cup and the Catalan and Spanish Super Cups. It was his third Champions League, the tenth for the club, a title that had been resisting him since 2015.

Bridge transfers and sensitive losses

With the bar so high, Ortega is not having an easy time starting the new cycle. Along with the pressure of Pasqui’s perfect season, he found that, in addition to Alex Pascual (son of the former technician), the team had also lost weight players such as Entrerríos, Sorhaindo, Palmarsson, Dolenec, Mortensen and Möller. Only four new players arrived in the summer (Melvyn Richardson, Ali Zein, Ángel Fernández and Leo Maciel) because the delicate economic situation of the club has led to cut the budget of the section. Not only have they gone from 18 to 16 professional chips, but two of the new Catalans (Fernández and Maciel) earn little, being bridge signings until the arrival of the coming season of the Swedish winger Wanne and the Danish goalkeeper Nielsen.

Club sources acknowledge that “the quality of the squad has dropped.” They consider that the team is paying for the intense previous season, to which 12 players added their participation in the Olympic Games, which also conditioned the preseason. The new coach barely had a week with his entire new squad to try to transmit his new concepts to a team that had been with the previous coach for 12 years. “The preparation has not been the best,” they assume from Barça, who recognize that “injuries and role changes” have complicated this start.

First misstep

The first defeat came early, in the final of the Super Globe, the Mundialito de Clubs. Barça, had won in the previous three editions, was clearly outmatched by Magdeburg (33-28) and the first setback in the Champions League was on the Veszprem court (29-28).If there are two key positions in handball they are the goal and the center. Waiting for Nielsen next year and after Moller’s departure, Gonzalo Pérez de Vargas he does not have a quality replacement in Maciel for high demand matches. After the departure of captain Entrerríos, Cindric had to be the starting center-back, but an injury at Veszprem conditioned him, forcing the young and talented Makuc to take a step forward. But it has not given the expected performance and Ortega had to rotate Mem, Richardson and Ali Zein in the direction, waiting for Cindric to recover.

The injuries have been primed with a Barça that already had a shorter squad than in other years: in addition to the Croatian center-back, they have been going through the infirmary Ariño, N’Guessan, Ali Zein and Frade. The latter, who had taken a step forward in the pivot, will be out for seven months due to a knee injury and Barça has had to sign Youssef Ben Ali (34 years old) with a one-month contract.

Even without Cindric, Barça had an unexpected puncture on the Porto court, where it did not go beyond the draw. Although, as had happened in Veszprem, the refereeing decisions had hurt the Catalans in the final stretch, the team continued to give alarm signals that were definitely triggered in the double confrontation against Kielce.

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End to a six-year streak at the Palau

Last week the Polish team attacked the Palau, where Barça had not lost in Europe for almost six years. Gonzalo, full of other games such as PSG, did not have his best afternoon this time and there was no replacement of guarantees for the goal. The return of Cindric was not enough to give more fluidity. The Kielce, who runs Talant Dujshebaev and in which his sons and Spanish internationals Daniel and Alex play, he brought Barça down again on Wednesday. The game and the attitude improved and the Catalans sent until 23-27, when they threw the good work done with a final partial of 6-0 (29-27). “We have been very good for 56 minutes, but between ball failures and some arbitration decisions we have been condemned,” said Ortega after the third setback in the Champions League. The Barça accused in that final stretch the physical exhaustion and the lack of leadership on the court that players like Entrerríos exercised last year.

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