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14.02.2013, 17:13
Montpellier continue to struggle ahead of key games
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The French club need to pick themselves up after facing Karabatic and Aix
 

Montpellier continue to struggle ahead of key games

After last weekend's loss in the VELUX EHF Champions League to Ademar Léon, Montpellier were left to face another disappointing outcome on Wednesday.

They were lucky to come away with a 27:27 draw against Aix en Provence, who are second from bottom in the French league. The match was a dress rehearsal for the defending French champions, who will play the crucial match for the Last 16 ticket against Chekhovski Medvedi on Sunday.

This was a special match for everybody on the court though, since it was Nikola and Luka Karabatic's first game together against their former team.

Nikola arrived in Aix just two weeks ago and was a key player in the game, scoring eight times.

The result added to the bad situation Montpellier find themselves in at the moment.

The French team face a huge challenge in the VELUX EHF Champions League, having to get at least three points from their final two matches, first at home against Chekhov and then in Hamburg, to clinch the Last 16 berth.

Thanks to Ademar León’s defeat on Wednesday in Flensburg, Montpellier still have a chance but they need to secure at least one win and a draw from the remaining fixtures to have the key to the knockout stage in their hands.

There were some encouraging signs for Montpellier on Wednesday despite the end result. They managed to avoid losing their calm and the game with the crowd heavily against them, and key players Cristian Malmagro and Michael Guigou were impressive in the last minute of the game.

Vid Kavtičnik has proven that he is in top form again after coming back to the court last December.

On the other hand, the team was too light defensively and allowed too many players to break through the defence and shoot, an unusual sight for the team known for its defence.

Looking ahead to the upcoming game, Chekhov has not been the luckiest opponent for Montpellier over the years.

The Russian team knocked Montpellier out at the quarter-finals in 2010 and they beat the French team again by six goals back in October.

At that point, Montpellier was playing with Nikola and Luka Karabatic. On a positive note, Issam Tej and Dragan Gajič, who were absent in October, will be playing on Sunday, as will Uroš Vilovski, who should get his first court time in the new uniform after spending sixty minutes on the bench in León.

Patrice Canayer, Montpellier's head coach, was very quick to focus on the next game. "Yes, it is a bit of a disappointment, but we were kind of lucky, the referees were nice to us at the end.

“Chekhov on Sunday will be the main game of the week, we still increased our lead for the second place in the French league, since Chambéry lost tonight," said Canayer.

Nikola Karabatic, who recently transferred to Aix from Montpellier, reflected on the draw.

"I had a tough game against a lot of friends tonight, some I even consider as my brothers.

“I think we deserved a win today, but a draw is still a good result. I really wish Montpellier all the best," concluded the French international.

Montpellier’s focus is now firmly set on Chekhovski Medvedi on Sunday 17 February, where a win would go a long way to securing a place in the next round.


TEXT: Kevin Domas / cor
 
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