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08.02.2013, 18:48
Women´s EHF Champions League Main Round, Round 2 preview
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Oltchim Râmnicu Vâlcea have it all to do against Krim Mercator after they were stunned in the opening round by Ferencváros.

»EHF CL Channel »2012-13 Women's CL
»Main Round
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Women´s EHF Champions League Main Round, Round 2 preview

The plot thickens. Unexpected results in the opening round mean that some of the favourites will have to role up their sleeves if they are to avoid a Main Round exit, while the underdogs and dark horses will be eager to make their mark and upset the balance of power.

Holders Budućnost Podgorica have a mountain to climb against Larvik if they are to bounce back from last week’s fiasco, although their revamped team are under no pressure to repeat the 2012 feat.

Oltchim Râmnicu Vâlcea, however, have it all to do against Krim Mercator after they were stunned in the opening round by Ferencváros, who will be wary of resting on laurels against an unpredictable Zvezda Zvenigorod.

Györ face a tricky trip to Denmark, where Randers will try to capitalise on vociferous home support to collect their first points of the Main Round.

Group 1
Budućnost Podgorica (MNE) vs Larvik (NOR)  

Sunday, 19:00 hrs local time in Podgorica

Rocked by the 17:27 defeat by Györi Audi ETO in the opening round, EHF Champions League holders Budućnost Podgorica will be looking to make amends for their poor start when they entertain a formidable Larvik side on home court in the Morača Arena.

Lack of experience in a youthful Budućnost team, missing almost all their stalwarts who brought the elusive trophy to Montenegro last season and then moved on, was everywhere to be seen against their Hungarian rivals whom they beat in a thrilling 2012 final.

While their coach Dragan Adžić refrained from pouring too much scorn on his team for a poor performance in which Budućnost suffered their second-worst Champions League scoring tally, he acknowledged there was no margin for error in a fiercely competitive last eight.

“After such a performance against Györ, it will be even more difficult against Larvik. This is the Main Round and every opponent is huge. We'll see how we stand and if the players are ready for this level,” said the coach who led Budućnost to last season’s triumph and Montenegro to the EHF EURO 2012 title in Serbia.

Goalkeeper Clara Woltering, the driving force of the new-look team alongside the competition’s top scorer Milena Knežević, concurred that the holders would have to raise the level of their game if they are to stand any chance of advancing into the semifinals from an incredibly tough group.

“We need to do much better than in Györ, and I am convinced that we will not miss the focus and motivation against the other strong rivals in our group," she said.

Larvik, for their part, will head from Europe’s far north to the Adriatic coast beaming with confidence after a comfortable 25:19 home win over Randers in the opening round.

The Norwegian champions will also be keen to give their left wing Sara Breistøl plenty to cheer about after the 30-year old announced she would draw a curtain on her illustrious career at the end of the season.

“We are going to lose a very good handball player and a person who is always full of fun. In my opinion she is the best left wing in Norwegian handball ever who has not played any internationals,” Larvik´s head coach Ole Gustav Gjekstad said.

Group 1
Randers HK (DEN) vs Györi Audi ETO KC (HUN)

Monday, 19:00 hrs local time in Randers

The two teams will head into this intriguing clash in contrasting moods after their opening round results but with one common denominator: they will both be contemplating replacements for key players set to leave at the end of the season.

Randers will lose their Brazilian national team goalkeeper Chana Masson, who is set to join traditional Danish rivals Viborg. The 34-year old maestro between the posts will change camps after five years at Randers, leaving a void which the club’s management must fill if they are to keep competing in Europe’s premier club competition.

Györ, last season’s runners-up, will seek replacements for Serbian middle back Andrea Lekić and Montenegrin winger Jovanka Radičević, who will head to Vardar Skopje as FYR Macedonia’s club appears set to become an emerging project capable of reaching the EHF Champions League Group Matches.

The Hungarian champions will start the game as favourites after their emphatic win and a strong performance against Budućnost in the opening round, while Randers face a tough task of rekindling their semi-final hopes after a tame defeat at Larvik.
   
Group 2:
FTC Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN) vs Zvezda Zvenigorod (RUS)

Sunday, 17:00 hrs local time in Dabas  

Ferencváros are flying high after a shock win at an expensively assembled Oltchim Râmnicu Vâlcea last weekend and the somewhat unexpected success at one of the hot favourites to win this season’s Champions League will undoubtedly have opened up their appetites.

FTC will again rely on the shooting prowess of their in-form Spanish right back Nerea Pena Abaurrea, who demolished Oltchim with a game-high 10 goals, as well as on Zsuzsanna Tomori who added six.

Having won two successive EHF Cup Winners´ Cup trophies in the previous two seasons, Ferencváros are by all means hungry for more success in Europe and are out to prove their worth among the continent’s elite this term. 

Hence they will see the home game against Zvezda as an ideal chance to pick up two points which could make a telling difference in their quest to advance to the semi-finals.

Zvezda, in contrast, are reeling after an emphatic home defeat by Krim Mercator in the opening round and will need to dig deep into their resources if they are to come away with something from Hungary.

Macedonian playmaker Julija Nikolić was Zvezda’s only inspired player against Krim and the Russian side will need a bigger contribution from the rest of the team on a difficult away court in Dabas.

Group 2
Krim Mercator (SLO) vs Oltchim Râmnicu Vâlcea (ROU)

Sunday, 19:30 hrs local time in Ljubljana

What a clash of the titans this promises to be. Buoyed by their convincing win at Zvezda in the opening round, Krim will undoubtedly come out with all guns blazing against a wounded Oltchim side who face a stern test of their credentials to overcome adversity.

Having lost middle back Cristina Neagu through injury for the rest of the season, the Romanian champions slipped to an unexpected home defeat by FTC and failure to pick up any points in Ljubljana would seriously undermine their bid to progress to the last four.

That was the minimum requirement when the team, boasting household names such as Katarina Bulatović, Alexandrina Barbosa, Aurelia Bradeanu and many others, was assembled with the obvious ambition of winning the EHF Champions League.

While Oltchim will sorely miss Neagu in the Main Round, Krim welcomed back their stars who missed some or all of the Group Matches for various reasons and they showed in no uncertain terms what they mean to the Slovenian outfit.

Andrea Penezić, Daniela Piedade and Susann Muller all made an impact against Zvezda and will need to fire on all cylinders again in order to stand their ground against one of the most powerful sides in Europe.

“We have a lot of individual quality and it was great to see the team work so well after the return of players who hadn’t been involved in a proper match for almost four months,” Krim coach Tone Tiselj said.

“Still, I think we are capable of playing much better and we will need to against a team of Oltchim’s quality. We can only hope that there will be no new injuries and the busy schedule will be very useful for our leading players to hit top form,” he added.

Further information
Find the schedule of the Women´s EHF Champions League Main Round here
Follow all matches live on ehfTV.com
 


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević / br
 
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