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02.02.2012, 01:00
Main Round kicks off
«Go back »Print Version


We preview the first round of the EHF Women´s Champions League Main Round, which takes place this weekend.

»EHF CL Channel »2011-12 Women's CL
»Main Round
»
 

Main Round kicks off

In mid-November 2011 the eight best European teams progressed to the Main Round, and so, after a break for the World Championship in December, they will now start to compete in six rounds for the semi-final spots.

All eight champions are eager for the re-start and have high hopes for the EHF Champions League, so some interesting and hot duels will take place in the arenas.

ehfTV.com has live coverage of both Group 1 matches, FC Midtjylland vs. Larvik on Friday and Grupo Asfi Itxako Navarra vs. Győri Audi ETO on Saturday, but regional restrictions apply.

For regional TV listings of all the EHF Women's Champions League matches click HERE.



GROUP 1 


FC Midtjylland (DEN) vs. Larvik (NOR)
Friday 3 February, 18:30 hrs (local time)


Live on www.ehfTV.com (regional restrictions apply)

In a Scandinavian duel, coach Ryan Zinglersen´s FCM will face title holder Larvik and the Danes have massive problems in their line-up before meeting up with the Norwegian 'powerhouse' in their Main Round opener.

FCM´s playmaker Lærke Møller is, due to a sprained ligament in her right knee, out of action again. The 23-year-old playmaker won´t be back on court during February, which is a big blow for her side.

Besides Møller, Sabine Englert is still recovering from an injury as well, but the German international hopes that she will be in the starting line-up against Larvik.

Due to the injuries Zinglersen´s team has suffered several defeats in the domestic Håndbold Ligaen, both on home turf (against Randers) and away (against FIF), so there was a lot of work psychologically and game plan wise after the two straight losses. After a recent victory over Slagelse, the coach showed optimism:

"With three keywords before the match: concentration, physics, and pace we fought hard and showed everything we had. This victory will now give us the necessary confidence boost. In the second half I was able to rest my first line-up before the showdown against Larvik."

The reigning champion, on the other hand, had a successful rehearsal before the Main Round, as Linn-Kristin Riegelhuth Koren and her team-mates defeated Norwegian club Njård by a six-goal margin.

Despite the victory assistant coach Tor Odvar Moen was not happy about Tine Stange´s injury that happened halfway through the second half:

"I don’t know what exactly happened in that situation, but what is clear now is that Tine has incurred an injury that needs to be investigated before we can say how serious it is."

Except for Stange´s injury, everything is ready before the title holder meets FCM, coach Ole G. Gjekstad confirms:

"We still have some little things to improve, and we are all fully aware of the seriousness of the EHF Champions League game that is approaching us this coming weekend."

Larvik will use several players in the Main Round that won the gold medal at the World Championship 2011 in Brazil. This should give the team great motivation and push to achieve similar results and defend the title in May 2012.
 


Grupo Asfi Itxako Navarra (ESP) vs. Győri Audi ETO (HUN)
Saturday 4 February, 19:00 hrs (local time)


Live on www.ehfTV.com (regional restrictions apply)

Despite first place in the group phase, in mid-November the Hungarians replaced coach Csaba Konkoly with Hungary´s National Team coach Karl Erik Bøhn. With the Norwegian trainer, Győr are flying high again and Bøhn distributes great confidence and optimism to his players:

"We have great unity in the team again and with our versatile attacking we have more variety for our game plan. In our defending we do not only rely on 6:0 defence, but we also attack the opponents with more aggressive defending," said playmaker Andrea Lekić.

"I´m confident that we will celebrate victory in Estella," added the Serbian international with great optimism.

Győr´s other centre-back, Anita Görbicz, is also of full of confidence prior to the match against Itxako: "Our aim is win every match in the Main Round, and it doesn’t matter whether we play away or on home soil."

The 28-year-old Görbicz has just extended her contract by another five years to 2017 which means that the Hungarian club can count on their icon and her classy abilities long-term.

Itxako, trademarked for their aggressive and unorthodox defensive style, have recently extended their lead in the Spanish championship after coach Ambros Martín´s team celebrated a vital victory against second-ranked Bera Bera in a close duel.

Carmen Martin sat out her side´s rehearsal prior to the great clash against the Hungarian champions, but the gifted right winger will be ready to perform on Saturday, just like line-player Begoña Fernández, who is back on court after a long-term injury.

Due to her rehabilitation Fernández was not able to participate with the Spanish National Team at the recent World Championship in Brazil, where the Spaniards made a great run throughout the whole competition and returned home with a shining bronze medal after defeating Denmark in a thrilling game.

The pivot burns for playing time and success in her side´s home duel. So do Itxako´s faithful fans as well, who still remember the 26:21 victory of April 2011 when the Spanish outclassed Győr in a one-dimensional semi-final.  

GROUP 2

RK Krim Mercator (SLO) vs. C.S. Oltchim Rm. Vâlcea (ROU)
Saturday 4 February, 18:00 hrs (local time)


Whilst Oltchim have several personnel changes in their squad, Krim have to suffer with injuries prior to the Saturday match of the two heavyweight champions.

Despite the World Championship break in December, the Krim players that remained home, successfully completed domestic league obligations and most of the time was spent with individual work as preparation for the Main Round of the EHF Champions League.

Coach Tone Tiselj has missed several players due to injury: Kristina Franić, Andreja Šerić, and Liudmila Bodnieva were unable to train for weeks, and Hungarian international Ibolya Mehlmann also sat out several matches. This all causes great headaches to the coach prior to facing Oltchim.

After reaching the Top 8 in the last years, the Krim supporters hope for reaching the semi-final, for the first time since season 2005/2006. Trainer Tiselj talked about his side´s Main Round chances:

"Looking realistically, the two favourites are Oltchim and Buducnost. The long-term vision of those two clubs has meant a lot of work, time and money in the few years, so I´d put them ahead of us. In today´s sport it´s impossible to achieve high goals overnight. However we will show our competitors the strengths of Krim and we will try to surprise, and for this we will need the support of our loyal fans."

Entry to the game will again be free, so thousands of spectators are awaited in Ljubljana´s Stožice hall to cheer for Andrea Penezić and her team-mates as they hope to celebrate the first victory in the Main Round opener.

Krim´s Saturday opponent Oltchim have made several squad changes. The most important is that the club welcomes back 40-year-old goalkeeper legend Luminiţa Dinu-Huţupan who returned to handball field in Mid January in a domestic league match against Baia Mare.

Her reactivation was necessary as regular goalkeepers Talida Tolnai and Sanela Knezovic are reportedly out of form.

Coach Radu Voina still will not be able to count on superstar Cristina Neagu who is still rehabilitating from her shoulder injury.

During the off-season the club bid farewell to playmaker Roxana Han Gatzel who joined SCM Craiova.

Right back Melinda Geiger has also left the club. The great prospect only had a little playing time during Oltchim´s group phase, so she decided to move to Germany to join last year´s champions Thüringer HC.

Oltchim will travel to Ljubljana with Oana Manea as the only line-player, as Russian international Ekaterina Vetkova has rubella and she has been isolated from the other players.


Metz Handball (FRA) vs. Buducnost (MNE)
Saturday 4 February, 19:00 hrs (local time)


Underdog Metz showed great character in the group phase and reached the Top 8 as the 'surprise' team of the tournament, whilst Buducnost marched without problems to the Main Round and will enter this game as the favourite of the duel.

Both teams have reported squad changes prior to the Main Round start. The Montenegrin champions loaned right back Dijana Števin to the French club of Nîmes.

The replacement for the Serbian handballer comes in the form of FYR Macedonian Elena Gjorgijevska who has signed for Buducnost last summer but the management decided to let her stay for another season in the club of Metalurg. The Skopje based team decided to reduce its squad and use players from its youth system for 2012, so the right-back debuted on 18 January in the Buducnost jersey.

"The whole team is ready and fit to travel to France, the only minor injury is the one of Dijana Jovetić. Her right hand joint is injured, but fortunately it´s not the shooting hand, so she´ll recover before Saturday," Predrag Bošković, the club´s president, told ehfCL.com.

The French champions welcome two new players to their ranks, and both are international signings: Serbian middle-back Kristina Liscevic is supposed to replace injured Allison Pineau, whilst Viktória Csáki arrives from Debrecen as the replacement of Katty Piejos who is recovering from her injury.

After a recent tight victory in an away duel against Nîmes, Sebastian Gardillou´s team remained in first position in a very even domestic championship, with four teams on an equal level and only a one point difference between the first and fourth ranked teams.

The league victory will give Claudine Mendy and her team-mates enough of a confidence boost and thousands of vociferous spectators will give their massive support to Gardillou´s team as it hopes to continue the club´s success story.


TEXT: Márk Hegedüs
 
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