Handball. Champions League: Montpellier without fear and favorite in Kiel

The two-time European champion from Hérault can make history again. Thanks to a nine-goal first-leg lead (39-30), the Montpellier team, crowned in 2003 and 2018, is in fact in an ideal position to relive another Final Four (June 8 and 9 in Cologne) and dream of a third European title , the last for their manager Patrice Canayer.

The foundations were laid last Wednesday when MHB crushed Kiel, one of the monuments of German handball, in their red-hot lair of Bougnol. “We’ve gone from outsider status to favorite, it’s up to us to justify that status. It’s a challenge for us because we can’t hide when we have a nine-goal lead,” warned Canayer. “It’s a challenge that gives us responsibility in front of an injured, perhaps humiliated opponent. But I don’t want us to be small illegitimates fighting against the big ones,” he added.

Montpellier, left behind Paris Saint-Germain and Nantes in the title race, frustrated by being knocked out of the Coupe de France, can therefore still complete the reign of Canayer, at the helm of the team for 30 years, using it to recall the four-time European champion, “Europe’s greatest club”.

Don’t forget 2003 and 2005 to qualify

For this, MHB will have to withstand the rebellion promised by Czech coach Filip Jícha and his charges, rejected in the Bundesliga and on the brink of a season without a trophy. “Now we need a little miracle. I hope we will have a magical night in Kiel,” he promised shortly after the knockout he experienced in Bougnol.

Montpellier has every reason to be cautious as the club is experiencing monumental turmoil from both sides. In 2003, there was a turnaround in the Champions League final on the return (31-19) after a reversed first leg (27-19) against Jackson Richardson’s bruising former captain Pamplona.

At the same time, MHB also came close to defeating the “comeback” in Flensburg in March 2005 (32-19, 36-22 in the first game), when an extraordinary goal by Grégory saved it for the gong. Anquetil. “I don’t know anything about miracles, but there are often reversals in the European Cup. We’ve had enough games with twists and turns like that. In Flensburg, we scored a goal from a free kick. It’s a sign that we have to believe in it until the end,” recalled Patrice Canayer.

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