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07.11.2013, 15:10
Battle for Main Round berths enters crucial stage
«Go back »Print Version


PREVIEW: Three teams through to the Women's EHF Champions League Main Round but ten bidders still vie for the remaining five tickets as the Round 5 of the Group Matches will take place over the upcoming weekend.
 

Battle for Main Round berths enters crucial stage

Five tickets for the second stage of Europe’s premier club handball competition are still available and there is little doubt that the weekend’s matches will produce fiercely-contested fixtures.

The three-way battle in Group B is heading for a dramatic finale with Midtjylland looking to recover from a crushing defeat in Podgorica as they face another difficult road game against FTC Rail Cargo Hungaria, while Buducnost need to avoid any slip-up in Lublin to stay in the hunt with a realistic chance.

Györ are already through from Group A but the other three teams are still fighting for a berth in the last eight as well as for a third-place finish which offers the consolation prize of carrying on in the Cup Winners' Cup.

Sävehof and Krim are both only a point away from the Main Round in Group C but meet each other and defeat would leave either of these teams with some work to do in the last round, while already qualified Larvik and Vardar face less fancied rivals in their neck-and-neck race for the top spot in Group D.

Group A

Hypo Niederöstereich (AUT) vs Györi Audi ETO (HUN)
Sunday 10 November at 20:05 hrs local time, live on ehfTV
In Maria Enzersdorf

With holders Györ already through to the Main Round, this could be a vital game for Hypo if they can spring a major upset and take away something from a game which they will start as clear underdogs.

A win or even a draw would put the Austrian giants, the former quadruple EHF Champions League winners, in a commanding position to finish as runners-up ahead of Thüringer HC, whom they visit in their final group match after beating them by six goals in the reverse fixture.

Hypo will also be motivated to redeem themselves for a crushing 19-goal defeat by Györ in the opening round and will hope that the competition’s top scorer Alexandra Do Nascimento (34 goals) can keep up her good form heading into this vastly entertaining fixture.

HCM Baia Mare (ROU) vs Thüringer HC (GER)
Sunday 10 November 18:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV
In Baia Mare - Maramures

A make-or-break clash which will determine which of these two teams will stay in the hunt for a runners-up spot, although a draw in Maramures would knock team both teams out of contention for a Main Round berth in the unlikely event that Hypo beat Györ in the group’s other match.

Having suffered three successive defeats after beating Baia Mare in the opening round, Thüringer must now regroup for this stern test in Romania, where the competition’s debutants will hope to delight their passionate fans once again after beating Hypo recently.

Although they lost the reverse fixture to Hypo, Baia Mare made a good impression with their tight defence and die-hard spirit, hence they stand a fair chance of upsetting their more heralded German rivals in a full house on home court.

Group B

MKS Selgros Lublin (POL) vs Buducnost Podgorica (MNE)
Saturday 9 November 16:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV
In Lublin

Buducnost quite simply must win if they are to keep alive any realistic hopes of avoiding an early exit in the tightest of the four preliminary stage groups.

The Montenegrin title holders, who won Europe’s premier club competition in 2012, stayed in the hunt after last weekend’s impressive home win against Midtjylland, in which their German goalkeeper Clara Waltering was once again the decisive factor.

She personified an iron-clad team defence which let in only five goals in the second half and Buducnost will need an equally impressive performance at Lublin, who have lost all four games but twice came close to snatching a draw against much more fancied rivals.

New coach Sabina Wlodek, who took over from Edward Jankowski after a
crushing defeat at FTC Rail Cargo Hungaria, seems to have instilled a new level of confidence in the team and they pushed the Hungarian powerhouse all the way in the reverse fixture.

FTC Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN) vs FC Midtjylland (DEN)
Saturday 9 November 18:30 hrs local time, live on ehfTV
In Dabas 

With the group delicately balanced and the two Main Round berths being fiercely contested by three teams – FTC, Buducnost and Midtjylland, Saturday’s encounter in Dabas has all the hallmarks of a decsisive derby.

While it is expected to produce a clash of contrasting styles, the match could also put one of these teams into the driving seat to progress into the last eight after the winter break.

Facing a difficult trip to Podgorica in the final round, FTC will feel that only a win will do on home court against Midtjylland after losing the reverse fixture by a whopping nine goals in the opening round.

But the Hungarians have been a different side since and although it may be unrealistic to expect them to erase the nine-goal deficit in the head-to-head record, they will certainly be a different prospect for the Danes in front of their bositerous fans.

Group C

IK Sävehof (SWE) vs Krim Mercator (SLO)
Sunday 10 November 16:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV
In Partille

Sävehof need only a point from their final two games to vanquish the ghosts of past failures and reach the Main Round, having been eliminated five times either in qualification tournaments or group matches.

Their home game against Krim, who are also just a draw away from the last eight, may be a tough proposition but having already defied the odds to get this far, Sävehof will head into the match beaming with confidence.

Even defeat would not spell disaster as it would still leave the Swedish champions two points ahead of the nearest rivals in the worst-case scenario, while a draw between Leipzig and Metz in the other match would put them through no matter what they do against Krim.

The Slovenian team, for their part, will in all likelihood view the game as a good scrutiny of their ability to perform under pressure while speedy winger Neli Irman, who scored 13 goals in the last two games, has another chance to display her wide range of skills.

HC Leipzig (GER) vs Metz Handball (FRA)  
Sunday 10 November 15:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV
In Leipzig  

A battle for survival featuring two teams that which surely hoped they would be in a better position at this stage of the competition.

Especially Leipzig, who lost all three games and four key players to injury since their opening win at Metz.

A win would give either side the edge to at least finish third and carry on in the Cup Winners Cup after the winter break, while it would also keep the winners afloat in the battle for a top-two finish.

Having won the reverse fixture in France, Leipzig should have the edge but their dipping form in Europe could present Metz with a chance to celebrate a smash-and-grab win in Germany.

Group D

HC Podravka Vegeta (CRO) vs Larvik (NOR)
Sunday 10 November 18:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV
In Koprivnica

There is still plenty to play for in this group although Larvik have already booked their Main Round ticket while Podravka have no chance of joining them in the last eight.

The 2011 European club champions from Norway need to win in order to stay level with Vardar, the other team who have secured their passage, as the emerging Macedonian force will no doubt leave nothing to chance in their home match against Balonmano Bera Bera.

Podravka, on the other hand, would almost definitely be assured of a third-place finish if they avoid defeat, but that will be a tall order for the youthful Croatian side against one of the most heralded teams in women’s club handball.  

WHC Vardar SCBT (MKD) vs Balonmano Bera Bera (ESP)
Sunday, 10 November 18:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV
In Skopje

Vardar have improved in every game and it is no surprise that the star-studded outfit, assembled during the closed season, has clinched a Main Round berth with two games to spare.

The Macedonian champions gelled quickly as their household names such as Andrea Lekic, Siraba Dembele and Jovanka Radicevic clicked perfectly after a tough opening game at Balonmano Bera Bera.

The Spaniards, rank outsiders in this section, lost by only four goals on home court in San Sebastian but that was before Vardar hit top gear and showed that they could be title contenders in their maiden Champions League season.

A staggering 35:17 away demolition of Podravka in the previous round put to the fore all the virtues of Vardar’s beautifully balanced team thriving in free-flowing and high-scoring encounters as much as in tough physical battles against opponents their own size.


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / br
 
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