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03.02.2011, 17:52
Main Round starts in Ljubljana
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Preview of all Main Round matches from Round 1 of the EHF Women's Champions League.

»EHF CL Channel »2010-11 Women's CL
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Main Round starts in Ljubljana

A new media guide for the EHF Women's Champions League is available, covering statistics, all eight remaining teams, their latest transfers and more. It can be downloaded at the EHF Media Downloads.

Starting Friday in Slovenia, Round 1 of the Main Round will bring four highly interesting matches. After a disappointing Group Phase, Danish title-holders Viborg HK are out of the competition and so several new candidates are vying for the EHF Champions League crown.

Very entertaining two months await the handball community, as already in Round 1 close and tough clashes in Volgograd and Râmnicu Vâlcea can be expected.

Group 1

RK Krim Ljubljana (SLO) – Itxako Reyno De Navarra (ESP)
Friday 04 February 2011, 20:15 hrs (local time)

Just as in last season, the Slovenian champions are among the Top 8 of the highest-ranked club competition again, whilst Spanish Itxako reach the Main Round for the first time in their history.

However this great success isn’t regarded as a big surprise, as the Spaniards have played a strong 2009/2010 season and with quality reinforcements in the summer they found it quite easy to win their group.

The Estella based club is on top of the Liga ABF with 15 consecutive victories and is ready to face the Slovenians.

Ambros Martín’s team has had a minor change to the squad since the Group Phase, as goalkeeper Tatiana Alizar has returned to Russia and her replacement Adriana Stefani arrived in Spain last Friday.

"We’d like to introduce her into the team slowly from game to game," coach Martín announced, following Stefani’s arrival from Brazil.

After several weeks of absence, left-back Nerea Pena has returned to the team, as also the long-time injured French international, Raph Tervel. So the Spaniards will arrive with their strongest squad and hope for a surprise in Ljubljana´s new hall, the Arena Stožice.

Krim, on the other hand, are facing several injury problems. Both of their classy pivots, Liudmila Bodnieva and Dragana Cvijić are injured, although there is still hope that the former will be ready for the game.

Also out for the Friday match is Ukrainian right-back Maryna Vergeliuk-Strile and there are several other players, such as Andrea Lekić, Andrea Penezić and Jelena Grubišić, who are carrying minor injuries but who are expected to be fit for this important home game.

Despite the problems, coach Marta Bon expects that "on Friday the girls will show their true face and prove that they’re justifiably among the best eight teams in Europe."

Enthusiastic support will come from a quartet of new reinforcements that recently signed for the club, among them three Slovenian players and one Swiss pivot, Ariane Geissmann. The 25-year-old caught the eye of Marta Bon during the EHF EURO 2012 qualifications, when Bon was also coaching the Swiss national team.

The EHF Women's Champions League game of Main Round Group 1, RK Krim Ljubljana (SLO) vs. Itxako Reyno De Navarra (ESP) on Friday 04 February 2011 at 20:15 hrs (local time), will be broadcast live on our free-of-charge web stream on ehfTV.com.

Oltchim Rm. Vâlcea (ROU) – Budućnost Podgorica (MNE)
Sunday 06 February 2011, 18:00 hrs (local time)

The match-up between the Romanian and the Montenegrin champions will surely be the round’s highlight with great moments and big emotion expected from both sides.

Budućnost are so far unbeaten in this year’s EHF Champions League but the team of Dragan Adžić might find it tough to continue this strong series at the home of Oltchim, who will be backed by their numerous loud, handball-loving spectators.

It’s well-known that both teams provide the core of their respective national teams and as both nations celebrated great successes at the EHF EURO 2010 in Denmark, this clash will be even more interesting and will draw great attention to the host city of Râmnicu Vâlcea.

Three days before the throw-off, the Romanians surprisingly presented a new coach. The Hungarian Péter Kovács was dismissed, instead Danish handball legend Anja Andersen is taking over the team.

Andersen’s team was recently reinforced by right-winger Iulia Managarova and the 22-year-old Ukrainian international is eligible to debut in the EHF CL.

Her acquisition was very timely for the Romanians with Ramona Farcau out with injury. It’s hoped that Managarova will form an effective fast-break duo with Adriana Nechita on the right side.

Sunday evening’s winner will not only be decided by successful counter-attacks and a strong defensive wall, but also in the back line. There, both teams possess high quality shooters in Bojana Popović (Budućnost) and Cristina Neagu (Oltchim). The latter recently extended her club contract, and also played a top-quality tournament at the EHF EURO, where she was top scorer. So Romanian experts hope that she’ll continue to shine in the EHF Champions League.

On the other hand, the Montenegrins used the European Championship as a further strengthening opportunity for their club team and even Ana Đokić and Katarina Bulatović joined the national team for the two-week tournament, despite being ineligible to play at the continental event.

In preparation for the Main Round, Popović and her team-mates played several games in the Women’s Regional Handball League, celebrating three clear victories against Croatian Podravka, Macedonian Metalurg, and Serbian Zaječar.

In those matches, coach Adžić gave equal opportunities and playing time to his players, so Budućnost are confident of a good result in Romania.

One can only wonder what tactical recipe the Montenegrin coaching mastermind will use to steal points from the strong home team of last season’s vice champions Oltchim.

The EHF Women's Champions League game of Main Round Group 1, Oltchim Rm. Vâlcea (ROU) vs. Budućnost Podgorica (MNE) on Sunday 06 February 2011 at 18:00 hrs (local time), will be broadcast live on our free-of-charge web stream on ehfTV.com.

Group 2

Dinamo Volgograd (RUS) – Audi ETO Győr (HUN)
Saturday 05 February 2011, 14:00 hrs (local time)

Both clubs repeated their great performance from last season and are again among the elite of women’s handball. The strong home side of Dinamo will host Hungary’s Győr, a team that is aiming for a semi-final spot.

For this goal, Csaba Konkoly’s team wants to collect the first point(s) in Russia. As in the opener of this year’s Group Matches, when the Hungarians met Zvezda Zvenigorod, another Russian team is their opponent. This time it is the title holder of the Russian championship, Dinamo. But last year’s semi-finalist Győr aim for a better result than against Zvezda, a game they clearly lost.

The Hungarians have good cards prior to the game, as everyone is fit and healthy, with the exception of reserve right-winger Adrienn Orbán, who is out with a leg injury. This means that playmaker Anita Görbicz is back on-court to lead her team – a great relief for dedicated Győr supporters.

The top-class player showed a great performance in her team’s January games after she had to miss the EHF EURO 2010 in Denmark and Norway.

In Wednesday’s rehearsal, Győr easily won their away game in the Hungarian championship, so with a great and positive mood in the squad they have begun the long and exhausting trip to faraway Volgograd.

The Russians are the leaders in their championship and currently gave a top performance in their league by beating Zvezda Zvenigorod in an away game. The whole team showed great character, especially right-back Anna Kochetova, who gave a top-rate performance, the 24-year-old scoring 11 times.

In this game, Dinamo missed two of their players, Ekaterina Yatsenko and Anna Sedoykina, and both are doubtful for the opener in Group 2. Nevertheless, coach Victor Ryabykh used youngster Elena Fomina as a goalkeeper and the 21-year-old saved marvelously to help her side to victory.

The strongest club competition, the EHF Champions League, is on much higher level though, so it’s hard to guess how the young goalkeeper will cope with the pressure against a top team like Győr.

The Hungarians are slow starters, so they’ll need a performance as good as in their last matches of the Group Phase. If they succeed, they’ll have great possibility to surprise Volgograd, a very hard nut to crack in their home stadium.

The EHF Women's Champions League game of Main Round Group 2, Dinamo Volgograd (RUS) vs. Audi ETO Győr (HUN) on Saturday 05 February 2011 at 14:00 hrs (local time), will be broadcast live on our free-of-charge web stream on ehfTV.com.

HC Leipzig (GER) - Larvik HK (NOR)
Saturday, 15:00 hrs (local time)

On paper, this is the clearest game in the Main Round. German champions Leipzig qualified from the weakest group to the Top 8, whilst Larvik, effectively the Norwegian national team, look too strong at club level.

Several surprising things happened recently to the Norwegian side. The World’s best pivot, Heidi Løke, signed a two-year contract with Hungary’s Győr, starting in summer. The 28-year-old superstar will play this half year for Larvik, but coach Karl Erik Bøhn ended his association with Larvik in January 2011, due to a controversy when Løke, who is also Bøhn's girlfriend, signed the contract with the Hungarian club.

Tor Odvar Moen, former assistant coach has taken over the main coaching position. Recently, his side clearly won in the Norwegian championship, but Moen asks for more concentration for the game in Germany: "Obviously it’s hard to concentrate for the whole game when the team is leading by a large margin, but I’d like to see a more focused team in the EHF Champions League."

"I’m a little bit concerned, as we will have to show sharpness and not to miss so many clear-cut chances," continued the new head coach.

Despite missing some chances, Moen was still pleased with the performance and thinks that it’s a good indication before meeting the German champion: "I’m far from worried about the next phase in the EHF Champions League. This was a good dress rehearsal before the Main Round begins," concluded Moen.

Although Leipzig again secured their place among the Top 8, their opponents in the Main Round seem too strong for them. And as the Germans will start against the top-class team from Larvik, not many predict them to gather a point in Saturday’s match.

Nevertheless the German champion remains focused and, after collecting some match routine from last season, they hope for their first Main Round point(s) in this year’s competition.

Interestingly, last season they also met Larvik in the first match of the Main Round, in a game one year ago. Larvik won that game in Leipzig after a tight first half by three goals.


TEXT: Márk Hegedüs
 
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