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21.11.2014, 13:32
Main round points at stake in final group stage weekend
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GROUP B PREVIEW: Buducnost, Vardar and Thuringer will be looking to win their final group matches in order to bolster their starting positions in the main round after all three teams advanced with a match to spare from a tough group.
 

Main Round points at stake in final group stage weekend

The battle for main round berths in Group B is over as Buducnost, Vardar and Thüringer HC have all qualified with a match to spare but this time round, there will be more than just pride to play on the final weekend.

With a new format in place, the three teams advancing to the second stage carry their group results against each other into the second phase and hence the clash between Thüringer and Vardar in Germany will decide how many points either team will take into the main round.

Buducnost, who have secured the top spot in the section, will certainly want to end their successful group stage campaign on a high note against bottom team Podravka, whose consolation is a berth in the Cup Winners' Cup Last 16 after the international break.
    
Women's EHF Champions League Group B

Thüringer HC (GER) vs WHC Vardar SCBT (MKD)
Nordhausen, Saturday 22 November at 14.30 hrs local time, live on ehfTV

Having sealed their main round berth with last weekend’s win at Podravka Vegeta, Thüringer HC can now look forward to a most enticing clash against Macedonian giants Vardar Skopje, who will face the German side without their injured playmaker Andrea Lekic.

The Serbian centre back twisted her ankle in an absorbing 24:24 draw with Buducnost and is also in danger of missing EHF EURO 2014 in Croatia and Hungary, but such is Vardar’s squad depth that coach Indira Kastratovic has several options at hand to replace her most influential player.

Russian teenager Alena Ikhneva shone against Buducnost after replacing Lekic, while Croatian left back Andrea Penezic hit top form after joining Vardar from Slovenian rivals Krim Mercator during the summer break.

Having taken one point from their two games against Buducnost and two in their home victory over Thüringer, Vardar will have a huge motive to win the reverse fixture against the German outfit as it would mean taking a solid total of five points into the main round.

Like their rivals, Thüringer have plenty to play for. They have so far taken no points from either Buducnost or Vardar and failure to come away with something from this fixture would mean heading into the main round with a blank sheet.

That, in turn, would dent their hopes of advancing into the knockout stage of the competition, hence it should be a fascinating encounter likely to produce vastly entertaining handball.  

Buducnost (MNE) vs C Podravka Vegeta (CRO)
Sunday 23 November at 19.00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV

This David vs Goliath clash will give both teams a chance to flex their muscles on the final weekend of the preliminary group stage, as Buducnost will carry seven points into the EHF Champions League main round while Podravka continue their campaign in the Cup Winners Cup.

Buducnost will welcome what will certainly be a less physically demanding match than last weekend’s bruising stalemate against Vardar, which saw Polish back Kinga Byzdra injured in a physical encounter against FYR  Macedonia’s champions.

What Buducnost gained from the draw with Vardar is a sublime performance by young centre back Jelena Despotovic, who replaced the despondent Milena Knezevic and is likely to get more minutes against Podravka in the Moraca Hall.

Former Podravka goalkeeper Marta Zderic could again be preferred to iconic German Clara Woltering in goal, as coach Dragan Adzic, who is also in charge of the Montenegrin national team, will surely be tempted to rotate and rest his key players with EHF EURO 2014 looming.

Podravka were beaten in all their previous five matches but played their hearts out in each encounter and can take a lot of positives from an incredibly tough group, in which Serbian right back Jelena Zivkovic and the seemingly evergreen Miranda Tatari shone against the elite of women’s European club handball.

Although underdogs against Buducnost, there is little doubt that the Croatian runners-up will want to impress and are hence unlikely to leave anything in the tank against the competition’s 2012 winners. 


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / br
 
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