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03.10.2013, 18:20
16 teams ready to start the party
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ROUND PREVIEW: The 21st edition of the Women’s EHF Champions League will throw off over the weekend with Round 1 games of the Group Matches. Six former winners and eight World Handball Players of the year are on the starting grid.
 

16 teams ready to start the party

The wait is over. The Group Matches of the Women's EHF Champions League starts this weekend. Six former Champions League winners, including last season´s champions Győri Audi ETO are among the 16 teams who start hunt for the Main Round at first.

Two of the clubs who have lifted the Champions League trophy before, Győr and Hypo Niederösterreich meet already in the first round in Group A, and so do two of the newcomers in the tournament, Spanish Bera Bera and the ambitious Macedonians from WHC Vardar SC.

2011 champions Larvik HK receive HC Podravka Vegeta, while Budućnost, who triumphed in 2012, take on MKS Lublin as their first task.

The 2013-14 edition of the Women´s Champions is also including eight World Handball Players of the Year: Cecilie Leganger, Norway (2001) Gro Hammerseng, Norway (2007) Linn-Kristin Riegelhuth Koren, Norway (2008) all from Larvik, Allison Pineau, France (2009) from WHC Vardar SC, Cristina Neagu, Romania (2010) from Budućnost, Anita Görbicz, Hungary (2005), Heidi Løke, Norway (2011) from Győri Audi ETO, and Alexandra do Nascimento, Brazil (2012) from Hypo Niederösterreich.

Group A:
Győri Audi ETO KC (HUN) vs Hypo Niederösterreich (AUT)
Saturday 5 October at 18.30 hrs. local time live on ehfTV

Both teams have felt the triumph of lifting the EHF Champions League trophy, but while Győr had the pleasure this spring for the first time after many attempts in vain, the Austrians won the latest of their four titles as far back as 2000.

One of the veterans at Hypo, Simona Spiridon, realises that she and her teammates may be in for a tough Saturday evening in Hungary.

“I am going to return to the club where I celebrated some of the biggest successes in my career and there are still several players in the squad whom I played with back then. It will be a tough start against the champions, but I believe I can help my team to a good result,” the 33-year-old line player told efhCL.com.

However, Győr captain Anita Görbicz is also cautious ahead of her team´s new Champions League campaign.

“Last season was the best in our lives, we won everything possible. However, this season will be different, because we are now a team everyone wants to beat,” admits Görbicz.


 

Thüringer HC (GER) vs HCM Baia Mare (ROM)
Sunday 6 October at 15.00hrs. local time live on ehfTV

The German champions are starting their third attempt to make it further than the group matches at home against the Romanian newcomers HCM Baia Mare.

After the exit of Oltchim Valcea from the European stage, Baia Mare, who went through the qualifiers, are Romania´s sole representatives in the tournament.

Thüringer HC under the experienced coach Herbert Müller are in thecompetiton for the third time and after having failed to reach the main round the previous two years, they will hope that this is third time lucky for them.

Group B:
FC Midtjylland (DEN) vs FTC-Rail Cargo Hungária (HUN)
Sunday 6 October at 17.00hrs. local time live on ehfTV

For the first in many years, Denmark is only represented by one team in Europe’s elite competition. Danish champions FC Midtjylland are alone when it comes to defending the Danish colors in the tournament.

In their first match, they receive Hungary´s number two, FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria and even though the Hungarians came through the qualification tournament, the respect in Midtjylland is big.

“We are really looking forward to getting started with the Champions League, but we have to admit that we are in for a tough challenge from the start.

“We are probably up against half of the Hungarian national team, as I believe they have seven or eight internationals.

However, all teams have their weaknesses, and we are busy finding the ones of FTC,” FC Midtjylland line player and former Danish international Louise Svalastog told ehfCL.com.


 

Budućnost (MNE) vs MKS Lublin (POL)
Sunday 6 October at 19.00 hrs. local time live on ehfTV

With several impressive new signings, including Romanian star Cristina Neagu and Danish international Camilla Dalby, Budućnost are ready to make up for last season, where the 2012 champions saw their title defence come to an end at the main round.

“We enter this season with a lot of new and better quality players compared to last season. All new players were chosen by Budućnost with the aim to improve,” said former top player and current manager in the club Bojana Popovic.

Budućnost´s first opponent will be Polish champions Lublin, who have slightly more modest ambitions.

“We want to fight and reach the main round. That is our maximum objective; our minimum goals is to finish at third, so that we can continue in the Cup Winners’ Cup,” head coach Edward Jankowski explained.

Group C:
Metz Handball (FRA) vs HC Leipzig (GER)
Saturday 5 October at 16.00 hrs. local time live on ehfTV

After missing out on the Women’s EHF Champions League last season, where they reached the final of the EHF Cup instead, Metz are back and are undoubtedly hoping to be known for more than just being “the girls who play in skirts”.

Obviously, they appear with a larger squad than last season and the French champions aims go beyond the group matches.

“The first objective is reaching the main round. The teams in our group are at the same level, so we are aiming to win as many games as possible,” captain and French international Nina Kanto said. But this goal has Leipzig coach Thomas Ørneborg in mind as well.

“If we perform well, we have a chance to go to the next round. We will do our utmost to qualify for the main round,” Ørneborg said.

RK Krim Mercator (SLO) vs IK Sävehof (SWE)
Saturday 5 October at 20.30 hrs. local time live on ehfTV

Krim can celebrate the club’s 30 year anniversary next year, and quite obviously, the Slovenian top team would like to celebrate this milestone by still being in the race for the Champions League title. That is also the objective of the team‘s legendary coach Tone Tiselj.

“We would like to continue our trend from last season, in which we entered our first semi-final in seven years,” Tiselj said.

In order to reach an aim like that, a home game like the one against Sävehof will probably have to be won, but the Swedish champions are not giving in just like that.

“We really look forward to the match against Krim, and we are able to turn up at full strength. Meeting Krim away will obviously be tough challenge, but we do not see ourselves as defeated in advance,” Sävehof coach Henrik Signell told ehfCL.com

Group D:
Larvik HK (NOR) vs HC Podravka Vegeta (CRO)
Saturday 5 October at 19.30 hrs. local time live on ehfTV

Larvik, who won the Champions League in 2011 and reached the final last season, have extended their squad for this season and are keen to take the step further and take the title again. This does not occupy the thoughts of line player Isabel Blanco yet, though.

“We really cannot think that far ahead at this point. First, we have to deal with the group phase, and then we can take it from there. Our first task, against Podravka, may be tough enough, as it is, and there is no doubt that we will have to be ready from the start in order to get started with a win,” the Norwegian international told ehfCL.com

Podravka have changed more than half of their team and the coach too. And the new Podravka coach Goran Mrđen also sees his team´s opponent Saturday as one of the favourites to win the Champions League.

“In our group we have two favourites for winning the Champions League, Larvik and Vardar, and therefore they are, of course favourites for reaching the main round,” said Mrden who believes his own team can create a few surprises along the way, though.


 

Balonmano Bera Bera (ESP) vs WHC Vardar SCBT (MKD)
Sunday 6 October at 12.15 hrs. local time live on ehfTV

The Champions League is a completely new experience for Bera Bera who won the Spanish championship for the first time in history last season. And the Spanish expectations are modest ahead of their Champions League debut.

“For Bera Bera it is almost impossible to reach the main round, so we can play without any kind of pressure, and the only expectation we have, is to become an uncomfortable and dangerous opponent for teams who underestimate us,” coach Imanol Álvarez said.

The situation is different, to say the least, when it comes to Bera Bera’s opponents Sunday, although Vardar are also Champions League debutants. Andrea Lekić, Allison Pineau, Siraba Dembele and Jovanka Radičević are just some of the new players by the Macedonians – and some of the reasons why many experts see Vardar as one of the hottest outsiders – or even favourites – to win the Champions League.

However, their coach Indira Kastratović is pretty modest in her expectations.

“We achieved our first goal with a successful performance in the qualification, and now we will take it step by step,” she said.

Further information

Find the schedule of all games of the Group Matches here
 


TEXT: Peter Bruun / br, cor
 
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