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21.02.2014, 12:40
Many questions to be answered
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ROUND PREVIEW: Things will start to become clear when the first half of the EHF Cup Group Phase finishes this weekend

» »2013-14 Men's EHF Cup
»Group Phase
»
 

Many questions to be answered

This weekend, the first half of the group phase is coming to end, but before the tournament goes into a three-week break, many questions will be answered as to which teams may still hope to qualify for the quarter-final.

In Group A it will be last call for TSV Hannover-Burgdorf who are still without points and will need to change that situation in Spain against undefeated Reale Ademar Leon, while Lugi HF are going to try and continue their impressive ride towards the quarter-finals in Hungary against European debutants Csurgói KK.

In Group B, Sporting CP can virtually send HC Zomimak-M out into the darkness by sending them home to FYR Macedonia with a defeat, while Montpellier Agglomeration HB will try to maintain maximum points away against Denmark´s current number one, Skjern Håndbold.

Pick Szeged can also go into the break with maximum points if they win away against TATRAN Presov in Group C, whileIFK Kristianstad will need a home win against last year’s finalists, HBC Nantes, in order to keep their hopes alive.

The two undefeated teams in Group D, HCM Constanta and Füchse Berlin meet in the main event of the weekend, while the meeting of HC Sporta Hlohovec and Chambéry Savoie Handball will decide which of those two teams will stay in the race for the top two spots.

Group A

Reale Ademar Leon (ESP) vs TSV Hannover-Burgdorf (GER)
Sunday 23 February, 18.00 hrs. local time

Having stated with a nine-goal home win against Csurgói KK, Reale Ademar Leon lost a point in Sweden last weekend. After having been in the lead for most of the match, the current number seven in the Spanish lead should be content with the 30:30 draw against Lugi HF at the end, as the Swedes were close to snatching the two points.

With three points after their first two group matches, Leon are still in a fine position, though, and Sunday evening they have the home advantage against Hannover-Burgdorf, who are in desperate need of their first points, if their hopes for the quarter-final are to stay alive.

So far, it has been a week with mixed emotions in the Bundesliga for the team from the Northern part of Germany who extended their contract with Icelandic international Rúnar Kárason for another two years this week.

After a surprising 27:26 win at home against SG Flensburg-Handewitt Sunday, Hannover-Burgdorf lost just as surprisingly 28:27 away against HBW Balingen-Weilstetten on Wednesday.

On Sunday, “die Recken” will need a win on a difficult away court in Spain in order to stay in the race for the quarter-finals.

Csurgói KK (HUN) vs Lugi HF (SWE)
Sunday 23 February, 19.15 hrs. local time

The start to the group phase has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for the European debutants from Csurgo. The Hungarians began by losing 28:19 in Spain against Reale Ademar Leon, but went on to defeat Bundesliga team TSV Hannover-Burgdorf as clearly as 36:28 at home in their second match.

The home game Sunday evening against undefeated Lugi may give an indication as to what the Hungarian team may actually hope for in the group. With three points after two matches, the visitors from Sweden arrive with self-confidence, and the expected return of Swedish international Magnus Jernemyr in defence is likely to boost the Swedish confidence even further.

At least one the Lugi players does not fear the pressure, he and his teammates may get under in Hungary. 18-year-old left back Simon Jeppsson who scored three goals on three attempts against Reale Ademar Leon on Sunday, is completely unfazed by the upcoming task.

“The atmosphere means a lot and it is simply cool to play away with a lot of pressure from the crowd,” Jeppsson told the Swedish Handball Federation’s website.

Group B

Sporting CP (POR) vs HC Zomimak-M (MKD)
Sunday 23 February, 15.00 hrs. local time

Having surprised most of the handball community in Europe with their 32:25 away win against number one in the Danish league, Skjern Håndbold in the first round, Sporting also managed to put Montpellier under pressure, as they met the French top team at home in their second match.

After the Portuguese side had been in the lead several times, the French favourites could go home with a 30:27 win in the end. This Sunday, Sporting will be entering the court as favourites for the first time in the group phase, when Zomimak are visiting the Pavilhao Desportivo Municipal de Mafra.

The Macedonian team will arrive in Portugal with zero points after losing by no less than 19 goals away to Montpellier in their first match, followed by a narrow 23:24 defeat in a thriller at home against Skjern. A further defeat will virtually leave Zomimak without any hope of a future in the tournament beyond the group phase.

Skjern Håndbold (DEN) vs Montpellier Agglomeration HB (FRA)
Sunday 23 February, 19.00 hrs. local time - live on ehfTV.com

While Skjern are still number one in the Danish league, one point ahead of KIF Kolding København, the players from the far west of Denmark still owe their fans a good performance in the EHF Cup after the 25:32 defeat at home to Sporting in their first group match.

Apart from having cost Skjern two points, the defeat also hurt the pride of the team who got a measure of revenge by winning 24:23 in FYR Macedonia against Zomimak in the second round.

However, the scalp of a European top team like Montpellier would not only boost the self confidence in Skjern, but also help them a lot in their hunt for a place in the quarter-finals.

Montpellier arrive in Denmark with two wins – but two wins which have been secured in quite different ways.

After having won 41:22 at home against Zomimak, the French team had to struggle in Portugal last weekend, before they managed to defeat Sporting 30:27. Which team will have to struggle the most in this round will be shown on Sunday evening in the Skjern Bank Arena.

Group C

TATRAN Presov (SVK) vs Pick Szeged (HUN)
Saturday 22 February, 18.00 hrs. local time

A seven goal win at home against IFK Kristianstad from Sweden and a 10 goal defeat in France to HBC Nantes have been the results for Presov in their first group matches.

The home game against Szeged on Saturday afternoon may indicate if the Slovakian team has a chance to achieve what they could not last year – qualify for the quarter-finals.

However, they are undoubtedly in for a tough challenge, when Pick Szeged visit the City Hall of Presov. The Hungarian team not only lead Group C with maximum points after a one-goal home win against HBC Nantes and a three-goal away win against Kristianstad.

They are also number one in the Hungarian league which says quite a bit, when you consider that number two, four points behind them, are MKB Veszprém, top of Group A in the VELUX EHF Champions League.

However, winning in Presov is no easy task, as right winger Attial Vadkerti from Szeged realises.

"Judging by the videos we have seen of them, they are a team with a lot potential and with many great players. They play fast and we have to be prepared for that,” Vadkerti told his club’s website.

IFK Kristianstad (SWE) vs HBC Nantes (FRA)
Sunday 23 February, 16.30 hrs. local time

After a narrow 28:27 away defeat to Pick Szeged in their first match, Nantes got back on track with a clear 37:27 home win against TATRAN Presov on Sunday. This Sunday, the French team who reached the final of the EHF Cup last year, can take a further step towards emulating that achievement, if they can win at the Kristianstad Arena.

Here, they will meet a Swedish team desperately in need of a win in order to keep the hope for the quarter-finals alive after two defeats – and a team likely to be supported by one of the largest crowds you will see in this tournament.

“Obviously it will be very difficult for us to reach the quarter-finals, but we aim to at least win our remaining home games, and with up to 5,000 spectators supporting us, it should be possible,” Kristianstad goalkeeper Dan Beutler told eurohandball.com.

Group D

HC Sporta Hlohovec (SVK) vs Chambéry Savoie Handball (FRA)
Saturday February 22, 18.00 hrs. local time

It will be two teams under pressure who meet in the City sport hall of Hlohovec Saturday evening. The Slovakian hosts are still chasing their first points, having lost by nine goals away to HCM Constanta and by six at home against Füchse Berlin. A win against Chambéry is a necessity if the dreams of the quarter-final are to be kept alive in Hlohovec.

Things do not look much better from Chambéry with only one point after their first two matches, the group phase has obviously been below the expectations in the ambitious French club.

While Chambéry might have been able to live with the 30:27 away defeat to Füchse Berlin in their first match, they had expected the 29:29 draw at home against Constanta on Sunday.

If the quarter-final should not become too distant a goal, Chambéry will need to take two points with them home from Hlohovec.

HCM Constanta (ROM) vs Füchse Berlin (GER)
Sunday 23 February, 13.00 hrs. local time

Spectators at the Sala Sporturilor in Constanta will be witnessing a top game between the two undefeated teams in Group D early on Sunday afternoon.

Constanta started out by defeating Hlohovec 31:22 at home before struggling to a 29:29 draw in Chambéry, despite being one player short in the last minute.

Füchse have done even better, winning both group matches while dealing with a number of injury problems. Chambéry were first to suffer defeat in the Max Schmeling Halle, and that win was followed by 33:27 victory away against Hlohovec.

However, a 30:28 away loss to GWD Minden in the German Bundesliga on Wednesday was a large setback and they will probably be just as keen to avenge this defeat as they are to stay undefeated in the EHF Cup.


TEXT: Peter Bruun / cor
 
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