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15.10.2013, 19:23
Precious top duels and path-finding encounters
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ROUND PREVIEW: Kielce vs. Kiel and Paris vs. Barcelona are in the focus of round 4 in the VELUX EHF Champions League

»EHF CL Channel »2013-14 Men's CL
»Group Phase
»
 

Precious top duels and path-finding encounters

Round 4 of the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase is split in four days, starting already on Wednesday at Velenje. After Sunday the major European club competition will take a four-weekend break to resume on 13 November.

Some early decisions might be taken in the four groups, in which five teams still have a clean sweep and six are unbeaten.

After three rounds it is also time to take a view on some facts and figures:

Currently Romanian wing Valentin Ghionea (Orlen Wisla Plock) is the top scorer with 22 goals in three matches, followed by two Slovenians Renato Vugrinec (Metalurg Skopje/21) and Klemen Cehte (Gorenje Velenje/20).

Four teams still wait for their first point after three defeats in a row. Veszprem (44:27 against Zaporozhye), Barcelona (45:26 against Wacker Thun) and Hamburg (41:32 against Velenje) each have scored more than 40 goals in one single match. So it is no miracle that the Catalans (+37) and the Hungarian side (+31) have the best goal difference by now.

Veszprem (71) and Barcelona (72) also have the best defence as like both of them Hamburg (102) and Flensburg (103) have scored more than 100 goals already.

The third round will see four main contenders for the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in two direct duels, as Kielce face Kiel and Paris host Barcelona in the www.ehfTV.com match of the week with English live commentary by Tom O'Brannagain.

Group A:
HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR) vs. Celje Pivovarna Lasko (SLO)

Thursday, 19:00 hrs. local times in Kharkov live on ehfTV.com

Both teams suffered defeats in the previous round, both teams are in the hunter’s role at the moment with Zaporozhye being ahead of Celje by one point. The Ukrainian champions won their only home match closely against Zagreb, the Slovenian runners-up took their only two points on home court against St. Petersburg. An open match is expected with Zaporozhye in a light favourite role due to their home advantage at Kharkov.

Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER) vs. St. Petersburg HC (RUS)
Thursday, 20:30 hrs. local times in St. Leon-Rot live on ehfTV.com

How will the Löwen team react on Monday’s news that their coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson will quit his job to become new Danish national team coach from June 2014 on? The German side, under former name SG Kronau club of St. Petersburg’s coach Dmitry Torgovanov, are supposed to be the clear favourite under regular circumstances.

As the Russian runners-up still wait for their first point and are always weaker in away matches the paper form clearly speaks for the current EHF Cup winner. But Löwen were in the same role already in their home opener against Zaporozhye and gave a victory from their hands. But winning at Celje – their first victory - should have boosted the Löwen.

HC Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb (CRO) vs. MKB-MVM Veszprem (HUN)
Sunday, 18:00 hrs. local times in Zagreb live on ehfTV.com

It is the 20th season for Zagreb in the EHF Champions league and the 19th for Veszprem – so the fans in the arena of the Croatian capital will see one of the most traditional duels in the history of this competition. And the encounter will bring the return of Veszprem’s goalkeeper Mirko Alilovic to his home country.

The young Zagreb team are currently second ranked in the table after two victories and one defeat. But despite the home advantage the hosts are not the favourite, as the Hungarian champions are currently in a perfect form. But Arena Zagreb is not a good omen for Hungarian teams, as the national team lost there in the previous EHF EURO 2014 qualification against Croatia.

Group B:
KS Vive Targi Kielce (POL) vs. THW Kiel (GER)

Saturday, 18:15 hrs. local times in Kielce live on ehfTV.com

The clash of the group titans, the duel of the two unbeaten top teams, the re-match of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 2013 – the game of Kiel and Kielce has so many attributes. The Polish champions had beaten Kiel at Cologne, so the three times Champions League winner is eager to take revenge. But the “Zebra” motor got stuck a little in the previous weeks.

The matches against Plock, Kolding and Porto were victorious but not with the usual dominant style, additionally Kiel lost their first league match at Magdeburg. Kielce will be backed by their vociferous spectators and are boosted by beating their domestic rivals Plock also on international court. As it is already match number four for Kielce, they still did not have to leave Poland. An open game in a fully packed arena is expected.

FC Porto Vitalis (POR) vs. Dunkerque HB Grand Littoral (FRA)
Sunday, 14:00 hrs. local times in Porto live on ehfTV.com

Which team will end their series? Both Porto and Dunkerque play the Group Phase for the first time ever, both still wait for their first point and both were close to in the previous round, when Porto lost against Kiel and Dunkerque were defeated by Kolding. Though the competition has just begun, only the winner of this duel can hope for remaining in the hunter’s role for the Last 16.

KIF Kolding Kobenhavn (DEN) vs. Orlen Wisla Plock (POL)
Sunday, 17:00 hrs. local tim in Kolding live on ehfTV.com

Last season both missed the final tournament of the EHF Cup, this season they are aiming high in the VELUX EHF Champions League. Kolding and Plock can count on highly experienced squads. While the Danish runners-ups have already four points on their account, Plock were defeated twice in quite equal matches by Kiel and Kielce. On home turf Kolding are supposed to be the favourite, but Plock showed their away strength by winning at Dunkerque already.

Group C:
Wacker Thun (SUI) vs. HC Vardar Skopje (MKD)

Saturday, 17:30 hrs. local time in Bern live on ehfTV.com

After two away defeats, Wacker returns home – and like in their first VELUX EHF Champions League match, they face a team from Skopje. After their 22:23 defeat against Metalurg in Round 1, the Swiss champions are eager to prove their spirit to the spectators and to win their first match in the competition.

Meanwhile, Vardar, still waiting for their first victory, arrive at Bern full of confidence after their sensational comeback against Paris, which ended in a 24:24 draw. But away the Macedonian champions, still coached by interim solution Andun Boskovski, are not the same away from the Boris Trajkovski arena, so maybe the hopes and dreams of Wacker can come true this weekend.

PSG Handball (FRA) vs. FC Barcelona (ESP)
Sunday, 17:00 hrs. local time in Paris live on ehfTV.com

The highlight of this round – seven time EHF Champions league winner visit the rising stars, who appear to have some problems on the international stage. Nikola Karabatic will return with Barca to his home-country and will face national teammates like Luc Abalo and current World Handball Player of the Year Daniel Narcisse.

The current form and brilliant defence and goalkeeping could be an advantage for the Catalans, who arrive at Paris as the only unbeaten team of this group. Currently, Barca are two points ahead of Paris – as both tied at Vardar Skopje. The result could have a huge influence on the rest of the group phase and it is Round 4’s ehfTV.com Match of the Week.

HC Metalurg (MKD) vs. HC Dinamo Minsk (BLR)
Sunday, 18:00 hrs. local time in Skopje live on ehfTV.com

Lino Cervar vs. Boris Denic is the duel of two Balkan experts on the benches, aside some more well-known Slovenian faces will face meet like Vugrinec on Metalurg’s side and Bombac on Minsk side.

Cervar will also meet his former Croatian national team wing player Ivan Nincevic. As seen in the previous rounds anything is possible for the hosting teams in Boris Trajkovski arena in Skopje. Both teams have four points on their account, one point below Barcelona, but as Dinamo took an easy going victory against Thun, Metalurg were overrun in Barcelona (17:35), a result which might have an impact on their performance.

Group D:
RK Gorenje Velenje (SLO) vs. Aalborg Handball (DEN)

Wednesday, 19:15 hrs. local time in Velenje live on ehfTV.com

Both have two points on their account, both have their matches against the German group favourites Hamburg and Flensburg behind – and as Aalborg and Velenje are supposed to struggle for the third and fourth place, this opening match of Round 4 has a high significance for both opponents.

Despite their youthful team, Velenje stood strong twice on German ground. The Danish champions have a more experienced squad, but the “wasps” want to prove their home strength again.

HSV Hamburg (GER) vs. HK DROTT Halmstad (SWE)
Thursday, 19:00 hrs. local time in Hamburg live on ehfTV.com

The roles are clearly marked in this encounter, as Hamburg are the favourites, having won all three previous matches. Halmstad took their lucky first point thanks to a great comeback against La Rioja, but their all-Swedish squad seems to lack the experience to be successful at the defending VELUX EHF Champions League champions.

Naturhouse La Rioja (ESP) vs. SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER)
Saturday, 20:00 hrs. local time in Logrono live on ehfTV.com

Like their Bundesliga rivals, Flensburg can take another step closer to the Last 16 and like HSV they have a clear record after three rounds. La Rioja let a victory at Halmstad slip from their grasp. In case of a double German victory in round 4, everything would be set up nicely for the direct duels in Rounds 5 and 6.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / br, cor
 
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