Xavi Pascual, the Final Four's king
The Catalan coach will become this weekend the coach to have participated in more Final Fours ever.
From humility and silent work, Xavi Pascual has been making his way in world-class handball. We recently knew about his signing for the Romanian national team. And it is not weird watching him, nearly every season, leading FC Barcelona Lassa to Cologne. In fact, Xavi Pascual has led the team to six out of eight VELUX EHF Final Four editions in Cologne. It is a historic fact if we add to it this weekend’s final stage, which will leave him as the coach with the most Final Fours ever (6). On June 3rd and 4th, he will equalize Alfred Gislason, who succeeded in taking THW Kiel to six EHF Champions League final stages.
Xavi Pascual and FC Barcelona have only missed two of the seven editions celebrated up to now at Lanxess Arena. Those were in seasons 2011/12 and 2015/16. Pauses in the road that do not overshadow the career of a coach who has achieved it once again: leading his pupils to the final stage of the European competition. One year out and they are back to seek the third Champions League of the team with this format, their tenth ever.
To reach his sixth Final Four, Xavi Pascual and his players had to beat the best teams in Europe. The initial draw left them at the “group of death”, but they topped it with 14 wins, a draw and a loss. In quarterfinals, they had to overcome the adverse result of the first leg (28-26) against THW Kiel, their eliminator in the previous season. With these stats, the Catalan coach has made a winner team of a squad suffering a building and renewal process, and now it is feared all across Europe. They know what it is beating two contenders to the European throne, Paris Saint Germain and Veszprém, since they beat the rivals in the group stage. However, Xavi Pascual demands caution: “it is the first time that we are not the favorites, but this is irrelevant for us. Being in Cologne is amazing, for the effort done up to now, and we go there with hunger”, he said before previously to the Final Four.
What they don’t miss is illusion, commitment and respect for the rival, especially for the one who awaits in the first match, Vardar. “It is a great team, with experience and lots of tactical in-game variations. They are very powerful collectively, maybe one of the best in Europe”, admitted Pascual. Now let’s see if the coach with the most Final Fours in history can succeed in lifting the trophy again.