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29.09.2011, 09:33
It’s showtime!
«Go back »Print Version


Preview of Round 1 of the EHF Women’s Champions League.
 

It’s showtime!

This season, five new teams join the elite of women’s handball to try and prove themselves in the most prestigious club tournament, the EHF Champions League.

The cards are well shuffled, as most of the clubs recruited several reinforcements to strengthen their squad. This means that a balanced season is expected, with Győri AUDI ETO being the main favourites for the title with their golden trio of new players: Lekić, Løke and Radičević.

The Group Phase kicks off in Hamburg on Friday with the match between newcomers Buxtehuder SV and last year’s top 8 club, C.S. Oltchim Rm. Vâlcea.

GROUP A

Byåsen (NOR) vs. FC Midtjylland (DEN)
Saturday, 16:15 hrs (local time)

In one of the weekend’s Nordic duels, these two teams will face each other in the EHF Champions League for the first time. Whilst the Danes qualified as champions, Byåsen had to go through the qualification tournament, where they impressed as greatly as in their preparation tournaments. Coach Valery Putans’ young team is gelling well together and will have good chances on home soil against the Danish champion that will miss its gifted, but long time injured, playmaker Lærke Møller.

Thüringer HC (GER) vs. Budućnost (MNE)
Sunday, 15:00 hrs (local time)

The home team of coach Herbert Müller is a first-timer in the EHF Champions League and will have a tough time against their Montenegrin opponent that marched to the semis last season. But Budućnost have to be aware of Müller whose players always give 100% fighting spirit until the final whistle. "Despite two injured players, in Lydia Jakubisova and Nadja Nadgornaja, we look forward to the CL experience," said Austrian international Katrin Engel. On Budućnost´s side, Clara Woltering makes her debut in goal on her return to Germany: "We had a long preparation where our focus was on establishing a quick game plan. THC also play a quick game, so I expect a fast-paced match."

GROUP B

Viborg HK (DEN) vs. Larvik (NOR)
Saturday, 14:30 hrs (local time)

After a miserable season and despite only finishing third in the Danish league, three times EHF Champions League winners Viborg HK used a wild card to enter the field of participants. "Every game in the qualification tournament contributed to building our team for the new season. We feel we’re going the way and also feel excited about the tournament. We will give our utmost for a good start and make our fans happy," commented Viborg right wing Cristina Varzaru. Defending champions Larvik have a reinforced team after world class pivot Heidi Løke defected to Hungary and Gro Hammerseng became pregnant. Despite this, Larvik remain favourites in this Scandinavian duel.

HC Podravka Vegeta (CRO) vs. RK Krim Mercator (SLO)
Sunday, 15:00 hrs (local time)

These two national champions played in the same group last season, and also in the Regional league, so they know each other very well. Podravka had an unlucky time and finished last. This year, coach Neven Hrupec will build upon Croatian players, whilst Krim will have to somehow cope with the loss of superstar Andrea Lekić. During the summer, their new trainer Tone Tiselj ordered one of the hardest physical preparations for the players. In this duel an even match is expected with the winner having the better cards for the next rounds.

GROUP C

Metz Handball (FRA) vs. Hypo Niederösterreich (AUT)
Saturday, 18:30 hrs (local time)

Just like two seasons before in the EHF Champions League, and last year in the Cup Winners’ Cup, these clubs will face each other in 2011/2012. Metz return to the elite after missing the French title in 2010. They’re reinforced by Ekaterina Andryushina and Marion Limal, the latter played for the Austrians last season: "With a good preparation and five straight league victories, our aim is to enter the Main Round! It will be a special game for me, even if it isn’t the same team as last year. I expect a tough match." Hypo’s Daniela Piedade expects a close duel as well: "Metz might be weaker compared to last season, but we have several new young Brazilians with no CL experience. Nevertheless, Ale Nascimento and me will help our young team to clinch a good result in France."

Randers HK (DEN) vs. Győri AUDI ETO KC (HUN)
Sunday, 15:00 hrs (local time)

By winning all their test and league matches in an impressive manner so far, AUDI ETO seem a superior powerhouse this year with some magnificent new signings, Heidi Løke (top-scorer of last season), Jovanka Radičević (strong right winger) and Andrea Lekić (Krim’s heart and main pillar in recent seasons). Serbian playmaker Lekić shows respect to Randers though: "They have several quality players and they played in the Danish final last year, which underlines their high quality." The Danes are built upon the core of the National Team, and have strengthened their attack with Susann Müller and Veronica Cuadrado. Nevertheless, it would be the round’s biggest surprise, if Jan Leslie’s team steals a point from the strong Hungarians.

GROUP D

Buxtehuder SV (GER) vs. C.S. Oltchim Rm. Vâlcea (ROU)
Friday, 19:00 hrs (local time)

Just like Thüringer HC, Buxtehuder SV is another newcomer to the EHF Women’s Champions League. They are runners-up of the German Bundesliga and defeated Debrecen in the qualification tournament. The team has made a great improvement in recent years, as evidenced by reaching this prestigious tournament. "We reached our goal and will play in the CL, but it will be tough, as our opponents are very strong. We clearly lost at the Sika Cup against Oltchim...," commented Buxtehude´s Diane Lamein. For Oltchim´s Ramona Farcău, to lose points in Germany would be a great disappointment. Nevertheless the right winger predicts a tough battle: "We know some of their players and expect a team that fights for 60 minutes. It is the first CL game of the new season, and that’s always a special event."

Dinamo Volgograd (RUS) vs. Grupo Asfi Itxako Navarra (ESP)
Saturday, 14:00 hrs (local time)

The Russians again finished at the top of their domestic league, which underlines their strength. The team has remained largely the same as that of last season, but with the addition of shooter Anastasiya Pidpalova, who has arrived from Romania. They are strong at home and rarely lose games in Volgograd. But Itxako are ready for this challenge, despite two significant injuries: Begoña Fernández and Nerea Peña will not be able to help their team-mates in Russia. Nevertheless, coaching mastermind Ambros Martín is preparing a suitable recipe to defeat Anna Kochetova and co. He will have to build his tactics around Macarena Aguilar, who recently played a quality World Cup in Denmark and became a member of the All Star Team.


TEXT: Márk Hegedüs
 
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