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20.04.2011, 14:11
Last steps to Cologne
«Go back »Print Version


Preview on the first leg matches of the VELUX EHF Champions League Quarterfinals.

»EHF CL Channel »2010-11 Men's CL
»Quarter Final
»
 

Last steps to Cologne

Eight teams are only each two matches away from the final destination of the VELUX EHF Champions League: the LANXESS Arena in Cologne. The Quarterfinals will separate winners from losers and participants of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 from TV watchers.

Two of the Quarterfinal duels – both are Spanish-German ones – have already been played in the Group Stage, while one duel – Rhein Neckar Löwen vs. Montpellier is a premiere for any European competition.

Eight teams from four countries compete for the four available places for the most impressive and prestigious event in club handball – and the first legs will start on Thursday. The final decisions will be taken on the next weekend in the return matches, but all teams hope for an advantage in the first leg.

SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) vs. Renovalia Ciudad Real (ESP)
Thursday 21 April, 20:00 hrs (local time)

No other team in the international history of SG Flensburg-Handewitt has been their opponent more often than Ciudad Real. The upcoming match will be the eleventh duel of both teams – starting with the European City-Cup Final in 1999, won by Flensburg.

Later on more often the Spaniards were successful in the end: In 2002 Ciudad Real won the Cup Winner’s Cup Final against Flensburg, in 2006 (the year the La Mancha team won the trophy for the first time) Flensburg was eliminated in the Semifinal of the EHF Champions League, in 2007 SG lost both encounters in the Group Stage before proceeding to the Final.

This season the results are equal: Ciudad Real won the first Group Stage match at home 27:19, but lost 23:25 in Flensburg. That was their one and only defeat in this season’s VELUX EHF Champions League campaign.

In their domestic league Flensburg lost the last two matches clearly against two other CL Quarterfinalists, Hamburg and Rhein Neckar Löwen.

Compared to the last victory against Ciudad Real the personnel situation has improved: Mogensen, Knudsen and Szilagyi are back on track after injuries, but Flensburg still miss left handed sniper Oscar Carlen (rupture of the crucial ligament).

On the other hand Ciudad Real saved the powers of Rodriguez, Parrondo and Abalo in the Spanish league last weekend, as those players are slightly injured.

Both teams are still unbeaten on home ground in this international season, so Flensburg hope for a huge advantage, but know that the Spaniards are the favourite. "The chances are 60:40 for us, especially as we have the second match at home," Ciudad manager Luis Miguel Lopez said.

"Ciudad Real are not really the opponents we were hoping for," SG coach Ljubomir Vranjes commented unhappily about another trip to Spain.

In Liga Asobal Ciudad Real is six points behind Barcelona, and have their last chance for winning the title next week in their direct encounter in their "Don Quixote" arena.

HSV Hamburg (GER) vs. Chekhovskie Medvedi (RUS)
Saturday 23 April, 15:45 hrs (local time)

The motto is martial: "The Russians are coming! Will you join us?" says the HSV advertisement campaign before their home match against Medvedi.

Hamburg is in a state of euphoria currently, as they are highly close to their first ever German title. Six Rounds before the end they are seven points ahead of THW Kiel – and have the chance to make the final step closer to the title on Wednesday when they have the direct duel in Kiel.

Aside two decisions have raised the atmosphere among fans and club: the brothers Guillaume and Bertrand Gille extended their contracts for two more years after long month full of negotiations.

In Bundesliga Hamburg currently lost their first point at home this season against Großwallstadt after 14 straight home victories. In the VELUX EHF Champions League the balance is not that positive after losing against Montpellier on home field.

Chekhovskie Medvedi on the other hand did not have any problems to fulfil the expectations by reaching the Semifinal of the Russian League play-offs. They are on the best way to their twelfth consecutive title in Russia.

Like in the duel Flensburg – Ciudad Real both opponents know each other well from international competitions in the last years, even as the number of duels is lower.

But the balance for the Germans is quite positive: In the season 206/2007 they took both points from Chekhov (29:26) and tied on home ground (32:32), in the season 2008/2009 they won both duels highly close 32:30 and 32:31.

But coach Martin Schwalb does not like looking on statistics: "Chekhov are highly dangerous opponents, maybe they are underestimated even by experts. We have a tough challenge ahead, nothing is decided, as some said after the draw: There is no easy way to Cologne."

The injury list in his team was reduced in the last weeks: Both Lijewski and Gille brothers are back, but Michael Kraus had to leave early from a preparation camp of the national team last week due to shoulder problems.

Both teams did not have problems in the Last 16: Chekhov took two absolutely clear victories against Bosna Sarajevo, while Hamburg had to struggle more to get all four points against Valladolid.

Last season the Russians qualified for the VELUX EHF FINAL4 thanks to a victory in penalty shoot-out in Montpellier, Hamburg missed the way to Cologne after being eliminated by Ciudad Real.

Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER) vs. Montpellier Agglomeration HB (FRA)
Sunday 24 April, 17:45 hrs (local time)

This game is our featured "Match of the Week" on ehfTV.com, including English commentary.

It’s the first time ever that both teams meet in an official match after some duels in a tournament in Strasbourg in the last years.

"It feels good to meet a new opponent, not always the same," was the first reaction of Robert Molines, President of MAHB Montpellier.

And he shares the opinion of Löwen manager Thorsten Storm: "We will see two open and attractive matches. The chances are 50:50."

Löwen have played impressively in the last weeks, despite rumours about players leaving the club appeared: For the first time ever they won a match in Kiel, then they clashed Flensburg with a ten goal difference.

The Bundesliga balance is great: Eight victories and one draw in the last nine league matches. On the other hand Montpellier is still fighting to catch up with table leader Chambery, still two points ahead of the reigning champion.

Montpelier will miss their Tunisian star Issem Tej in both matches after an injury, Löwen pivot Bjarte Myrhol had also to be replaced in their last matches.

Two Icelandic players will leave the Löwen after this season to AG Copenhagen: Olafur Stefansson and Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson. According to media reports also Bielecki, Gunnarsson and Lijewski will follow to Denmark, and Szmal and Tkaczyk will join Polish champion Kielce.

Montpellier announced this week that pivot David Juricek will leave the club after this season.

"We will see two matches with high speed and full power," Löwen player Uwe Gensheimer expects. And the spectators will see a duel including three former World Handball Players of the year: Szmal and Stefansson on Löwen side and Karabatic for Montpellier.

In 2010 Löwen missed the EHF FINAL4 after two defeats against THW Kiel, Montpellier was eliminated by Chekhovskie Medvedi. In contrast to the Germans the French Champions won the Champions League already once – in 2003.

F.C. Barcelona Borges (ESP) vs. THW Kiel (GER)
Sunday 24 April, 19:30 hrs (local time)

In total eight EHF Champions League titles and more than 120 national and international titles will meet on Easter Sunday in Palau Blaugrana.

Barcelona vs. Kiel is one of the oldest and biggest duels in the EHF Champions League history. When facing each other both teams gave unforgettable and magic moments to the spectators, starting in the 90’s when mostly Barcelona stood in THW’s way.

In 2000 Barcelona snatched the EHF Champions League title in a high tensioned final with a one goal difference, later-on both teams met in the crucial stages of the EHF Champions League or EHF Cup again and again.

Like in 2008 when Kiel won the first leg of the Semifinals with a ten goal difference and nearly was eliminated in Barcelona though.

Last season both teams wrote history, as they were the first ones to participate in a final of an EHF FINAL4 tournament. Despite leading with six goals in the second half Barcelona was overrun by THW – in the end the Germans won the final 36:34.

History restarted this season, as both teams met in the Group Stage like in the year before. After a draw in Kiel, Barca won the home match 32:29. The total balance of both teams in 17 official EHF matches: Nine Kiel victories, seven Barca victories and one draw.

"Unfortunately those teams meet too early," Barca manager Xavier o’Callaghan said: "Both belong to the VELUX EHF FINAL4."

THW manager Uli Derad shares this opinion: "We wanted to meet in Cologne again, not so early. But now we have to face the challenge. We want to defend our title and this means eliminating Barcelona in the Quarterfinals."

As Barca extended their brilliant series in Liga Asobal to 24 victories in 24 matches one week before the clash of the giants in Ciudad Real, Kiel is far away from defending their German title.

Two straight home defeats against Großwallstadt and Löwen – the first two-in-a-row defeats since 1978 (!) – now mean seven points distance to leaders HSV Hamburg, the opponents they will meet in the Bundesliga this Wednesday.

As in the THW squad more or less all players are fit, Barca still have to replace their Bosnian goalkeeper Danijel Saric – and were surprisingly thrown out of the "Copa del Rey" by Valladolid.


TEXT: Björn Pazen
 
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