The EHF Handball Champions League Final Four is set and the fuse is about to be lit on the sport's showpiece club event in Cologne.
THW Kiel, Barcelona, Veszprem and Kielce will face off for European supremacy with many of the best players on the planet involved:
And while it'll feel a little strange without presence of PSG's handball icons Mikkel Hansen and Nikola Karabatic, there's plenty of star power to get the party started even though Kiel's Sander Sagosen being out as well with an ankle injury.
Read on for a preview, schedule and stars to watch with a European champion to be decided by 19 June.
When is the Handball Final Four 2022?
The Champions League semi-finals and final will all happen on 18/19 June 2022 at at the LANXESS arena in Cologne, Germany.
Handball Champions League semi-final, final date and time: Schedule
Here are the match dates and throw-off times:
Saturday, 18 June 2022
• 15:15 (CEST): Telekom Veszprem HC (HUN) vs Lomza Vive Kielce (POL)
• 18:00 (CEST): THW Kiel (GER) vs Barça (ESP)
Sunday, 19 June 2022
3rd place match:
• 3:15 (CEST)
• 18:00 (CEST)
2022 Handball Champions League Final Four Preview
Only one of the teams from last year's final four lineup made it this year, and that just happens to be the reigning champs Barcelona.
They have been on fire, coming into their semi-final with a +58 goal difference after 16 games and with the tournament top scorer Dika Mem in rude form.
But their semi-final opponent THW Kiel actually bettered Barça's road to the finals record, winning 12 of their matches to the Catalan's 11, albeit scoring fewer goals.
Barça and Kiel have both won this competition 3 times each, and it'll be a memorable battle as they go in search of a record fourth title.
Meanwhile on the other side of the draw Hungary's Telekom Veszprem take on Polish giants Kielce in a tie steeped in history.
Kielce coach Talant Dujshebaev and his two sons Dani and Alex make this semi-final a family affair but they have their work cut out as the Hungarians have won 11 of their last 16 meetings.
Dad and coach Talant won the Champions League as both player and coach, but he's not the only one with experience, Momir Ilic coaches Veszprem having also won it as a player.
Stars to watch at the 2022 Final Four
Barcelona vs. THW Kiel
With four absolutely stacked sides, there's a superstar everywhere you look.
Gonzalo Pérez de Vargas, Aitor Arino, Ludovic Fabregas, and Luka Cindric are all multiple champions of Europe in the Barcelona team as they aim at something no other team has managed:
Winning the final four a second time in a row.
Dika Mem will be key to the Catalans' efforts, he's the competition's top scorer this season with 90 goals and is ably assisted by Aleix Gomez from the wing, and explosive Egyptian star left-back Aly Zein is always fun to watch.
But when it comes to star power THW Kiel can easily match their semi-final opponents:
Croatian hero Domagoj Duvnjak and German man-mountain Patrick Wiencek are two that immediately come to mind.
Add Denmark's Olympic gold medal-winning goalkeeper Niklas Landin, his brother Magnus, the wizardry of Rune Dahmke and Hendrik Pekeler, the solidity of Steffen Weinhold next to Wiencek, and Kiel are a fearsome prospect.
Veszprem v Kielce players to watch
On the Kielce team Igor Karacic is the experienced hand having won it twice with Vardar, the 33-year-old Croatian is definitely one to watch alongside the Dujshebaev brothers and a strong team unit that has had an incredible season so far.
The Polish outfit topped their Champions League group ahead of Barça, Paris Saint-Germain and Veszprem, and took Montpellier HB apart in the quarter-finals.
But Veszprem have plenty of top-tier firepower too: Petar Nenadic (85 goals), Gasper Marguc (79), and Fathy Omar (71) lead the way in Champions League scoring so far for the Hungarians.
Centre-back Rasmus Lauge from Denmark is a key piece of the puzzle too.
They're intent on making it fifth time lucky having lost in the previous four finals they reached.
EHF Final Four quotes: What they're saying
All quotes from EHF.com:
“This is a big happening, this is what you train for the whole season, it is such an amazing weekend. Hopefully we can bring back the trophy to Kiel but it is quite hard.” - Sander Sagosen
“We have been struggling during the first half of the season. Now we are in the best shape again, but I don’t think we are the favourites,” Gonzalo Pérez de Vargas said, and when asked about Barca's history-chasing two-in-a-row chances he smiled:
“That is our challenge."
Rasmus Lauge of Telekom Veszprem knows that in one of sports' most unpredictable competitions nothing comes easy:
“It is a tough EHF FINAL4, very even. I can not name one favourite but we are confident that we can beat everyone.”
And what's the secret to Kielce's sizzling season?
“No secrets, just hard work,” Alex Dujshebaev told EHF. “All the team has been playing amazing this season, I hope we can keep it going at the EHF FINAL4.”
Could Alex share the trophy with dad as coach?
“That would be amazing,” he said. “Also with my brother, Dani.”
EHF Final Four where to watch and live stream
With handball's reach growing globally the Champions League Final Four will be live on many national TV stations and their corresponding online platforms around the world.
Where there aren't you may be able to get it live streaming on EHFTV.com, but geo-blocking will apply depending on where you are.
There are also lots of highlights, viral clips and more to be found on the EHF's official YouTube channel.
Here's a list of where you can watch on TV according to EHF.com:
Albania: Arena Sport
Belarus: BTRC/via Intermediate
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Arena Sport
Bulgaria: A1 Bulgaria
Croatia: Arena Sport/RTL
Cyprus: TBC/via Intermediate
Czech Republic: Czech TV/AMC/via Intermediate
Denmark (incl. Faroe Islands): TV2 Denmark/via NENT
France (incl. Andorra, Monaco and French overseas territories French Guyana, French Polynesia, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, New Caledonia, Reunion, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Wallis and Futuna): beIN Sports France, TF1/via beIN Sports France
Germany: ZDF/via SportA, ARD/via SportA, Spotdeutschland.tv/via SportA, Eurosport Germany/via SportA
Greece: Cosmote/via Intermedaite
Hungary: MTVA/via Intermediate
Italy: Eleven Sports (Prelimnary Round & Main Round)/via Intermediate, Sky Sport (semi-final & finaly only)/via Intermediate
Kosovo (non-exclusive): Arena Sport
Montenegro: Arena Sport/RTCG
North Macedonia: Arena Sport
Romania: Look TV/via Intermediate
Russia: Match TV/via Intermediate
Serbia: Arena Sport
Slovakia: AMC/via Intermediate, RTVS/via Intermediate
Slovenia: Arena Sport/RTVSLO
Spain: TVE/via Intermediate
ESPN: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, and Venezuela; Brazil; Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama; Mexico; Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Barbuda, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Falkland Islands, French Guiana, Grenada, Guadaloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Saba, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Eustatius, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Turks and Caicos
beIN Sports: USA, Canada, Turkey, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia, East Timor, Hong Kong, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Mauritius, Madagasca, New Zealand