No Handball enthusiast in their right mind would even begin to argue against the fact that the Liga Asobal (Spain) and the HBL (German Bundesliga) are the top two national club leagues in the world. In fact, for this year’s Champions League all the Spanish and German teams have advanced, except when they have had to play each other. But the argument as to which of those two leagues is stronger is a hotly contested debate. Last year it was hard to argue against Liga Asobal superiority as two Spanish sides (Ciudad Real and Portland San Antonio) played each other in the final.
This year the case for superiority is more wide open, partly due to Ciudad Real and Portland San Antonio meeting in the quarter-finals. With the 2 top Spanish teams playing each other, it looked as if the Germans would get to continue their World Championship winning ways in the Champions League with 3 out of the 4 semi-finalists. Flensburg handled Barcelona with no problem, as did Kiel vs Hungarian side Veszprem. All Gummersbach had to do was beat Valladolid at home in Cologne Arena in front of 16,000 fans. Somebody forgot to tell Valladolid this, though, and behind a monster game, 10 goal outburst from Argentine Right Back Eric Gull, German fans left Cologne Arena unhappy for the first time this year.
Now two German sides are left to face two Spanish sides and we can only hope that the draw sets up Spain vs Germany showdowns in the semi-finals. (a 67% likelihood) If this is the case and either the German Clubs or Spanish Clubs manage a semi-final sweep they will make a good case for best league bragging rights. If we end up with separate Spanish and German semi-final derbies, however, the case for superiority will be less clear. Maybe, there are few fans out there that prefer the national derbies, but I suspect they are the minority. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again the EHF should change the draw format to prevent clubs from the same nation playing each other until it can no longer be avoided.