FC Barcelona Intersport face AG Copenhagen on Friday in the first leg of their EHF Champions League quarter final. Shortly before setting off for Denmark, Xavi Pascual spoke about how “we are expecting a tough opponent, with an aggressive defence, who control both defensive systems well, run fast in attack and for whom playing at home will mean an added boost”.

Dictating the pace

In order to deal with all these virtues, the FCB coach said that “we will have to make our own virtues count on court … We have to dictate the pace of the game … We will be going out in search of a win. The most important thing is for us to dictate the pace and to play handball the way we like to, although it has to be said that we are two teams that play a very similar game”.

After commenting that the Danish side is as strong as any that Barça Intersport would expect to meet at this stage of the competition, Pascual observed that “this is the most attractive of the quarter final matches … It could easily be a Final Four match.” And although he is convinced that his players would be able to make up for any deficit in the second leg, “the idea is for us to go there and win”.

Unusual venue

The match is being played at the Parken Stadium, with the capacity for 22,000 spectators and which is usually used for football. “That’s another condition” said Pascual. “But we are used to playing in front of 22,000 people, as we have done in previous Final Fours. Playing before so many people is an added motivation for my players, although it will be for our opponents too, of course. But whatever is good for handball as a spectacle is good for me.”

Xavi Pascual ended by saying how pleased he is that Siarhei Rutenka will eventually be allowed to play, and that for the moment, he isn’t thinking about anything other than Friday evening’s match. “The only thing that matters to us is Copenhagen and trying to knock them out. It would be a mistake to think any further ahead than that” he concluded.

Rutenka: “Small errors will be decisive”

Siarhei Rutenka, who will be able to play in Copenhagen after the EHF Appeals Committee accepted Barcelona’s claim in reference to the red card he was shown against Montpellier, said that “it is hard to talk about favourites. In games at this level, with so many good players, small errors can prove decisive”.

As for playing the match in a football ground, the Parken Stadium, he said that “all that’s different will be the number of spectators … But as they’ll be so far away, they won’t be able to create much pressure.”

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