Polo superstar Lleonart feeling good for home support against Surbiton in Barcelona

Real Club de Polo superstar Xavi Lleonart says he is feeling good and raring to go for their EHL KO16 tie with Surbiton as virtual hosts in Barcelona in early October.

Lleonart overcame injury issues to play a central role in Spain’s run to European Championship silver, producing a virtuoso performance in the semi-final defeat of the Netherlands.

The Spanish national team is taking no risks in terms of their Olympic qualifier in six weeks time, delaying the start of the club league until November.

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As such, their EHL KO16 tie will be Polo’s first major match of the season, making the short trip across the city to the Pau Negre Stadium where they hope their fans will arrive in big numbers to support.

“I’m feeling good right now,” Lleonart told the EHL website. “I got injured during the Euro preparation but, luckily, I could still play and perform well in the important games to achieve an important result for us.

“The calendar is really busy this year that’s why it is so important how you manage injuries. You just need to be at your best in the key games of the season, the problem is that there are a lot of those games this year!”

It means something of a split focus at the moment with Lleonart – along with club mates Matias Rey, David Alegre, Roc Oliva, Llorenç Piera and the recently joined Vicenç Ruiz – stepping out of the Catalonia Cup where Polo ran up an impressive 3-2 win over Junior FC.

That tie was a first meeting for new Polo coach Roger Pallarols against his former club with whom he enjoyed a fine couple of seasons.

Pallarols has taken over from Carlos Garcia Cuenca who enjoyed a hugely impressive seven-year spell in charge, landing six regular season titles, five Copa del Reys and four national championships.

“Carlos meant a lot to Polo and for the players as well,” Lleonart said of the outgoing coach. “He is an outstanding coach and he showed it during his seven years with us, not only with all the trophies and championships but also for the relationship with the players and with the supporters.

“The EHL FINAL4 [last season] was something we were looking for the past seven seasons and it was a very special moment when we beat Egara in the KO8!

“It was the only goal that we hadn’t achieved and it was amazing to reach the FINAL4 in his last season. Personally, Carlos is the best coach I’ve ever had. He is a leader and I’m sure he will have a lot of success in the future as a coach and he will be one of the best. 

“Roger is also a great coach; he will give us another way to play and understand hockey. He’s a breath of fresh air for the club and the team after seven intensive years; we needed some change. A new Polo is growing and I hope that we can keep improving.”

And what better stage to do it than the EHL in his home city? It is a competition he has lit up before, winning the GRAND FINAL MVP award with HC Bloemendaal in 2018 and he is keen to do so again.

“The EHL, after the Olympics, is my favourite competition. Playing for your club in front of your crowd is magical and even more if we consider that Spain does not usually host international hockey competitions.

“It is going to be a tough game against Surbiton but we hope to go through the next round with the help of our supporters in the stands.”