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04.09.2015, 16:32
Quartet aims for final Champions League berth
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PREVIEW: Borac Banja Luka, Elverum, OCI-Lions and Hard will contest an intriguing qualifying tournament for the last remaining berth in Europe’s premier club competition.
 

Quartet aims for final Champions League berth

The revamped VELUX EHF Champions League, whose new format features 28 teams divided into four groups, is just around the corner and four teams will battle it out for the last available spot in Pool D.

The winners of the upcoming weekend’s tournament in Banja Luka are set to join HC Metalurg, Skjern Handbold, HC Motor Zaporozhye, Kadetten Schaffhausen and HCM Baia Mare in the group phase of the continent’s elite club competition.

Bosnia Herzegovina’s RK Borac m:tel, the tournament hosts, take on Austria’s Alpla HC Hard while Norwegian outfit Elverum Handball Herrer clash with Dutch champions OCI-Lions on Saturday.

The semi-final losers enter a third-place playoff while the winners lock horns eyeing the prize of qualifying for the big stage.

All matches will be streamed live on ehfTV.com and fans will also be able to follow the live ticker and on EHF social media channels.

 


VELUX EHF Champions League 2015/16

 

Qualification Tournament

Elverum Handball Herrer (NOR) vs OCI-LIONS (NED)
Saturday 5 September 17:30 local time in Banja Luka, live on ehfTV

Elverum are aiming to end a six-year barren run for Norwegian teams in the VELUX EHF Champions League, with Fyllingen becoming the country’s last club to reach the competition’s group stage in the 2009-2010 season.

Elverum should have a fairly straightforward task against their Dutch opponents and while their player-coach Michael Apelgren will take nothing for granted against OCI-Lions, he also acknowledged they would face an uphill battle in the final should they get there.

“We are not the favourites but the chance is definitely there,” Apelgren told ehfcl.com in a recent interview when asked to assess his team’s chances of making the decisive step forward.

“We won’t have too many competitive matches under our belt when the qualification tournament comes but our rivals won’t have many more either,” added the 31-year old Swede.

Elverum had a strong dress rehearsal for the qualification tournament in Banja Luka, having eked out a 24:23 league win at perennial Norwegian rivals Drammen on Wednesday.

OCI-Lions reached the EHF Cup Qualification Round 2 last season and taking part in the VELUX EHF Champions league preliminary phase is a step forward as well as a massive challenge for the Dutch side led by female head coach Monique Tijsterman (read the Interview of the Week here).

Although they will start as underdogs against Elverum, lack of pressure could also unleash their best handball and hence the fans in Banja Luka should expect a highly entertaining contest.
 

Alpla HC Hard (AUT) vs RK Borac m:tel (BIH)
Saturday 5 September 20.00 local time in Banja Luka, live on ehfTV

Bosnian champions Borac will head into this mouth-watering tie as favourites to go through to Sunday’s final largely because a jam-packed Borik Hall is bound to get behind the tournament hosts in full force.

With seven league titles to their name in the former Yugoslavia coupled with an historic 1976 Champions Cup triumph, Borac are still a household name in the Balkans but their illustrious history will mean little to a compact Alpla unit.

 

With the Austrian champions having another tilt at the VELUX EHF Champions League group stage, Borac will need to dig deep to overcome their rivals and signing former Serbia stalwart Mladen Bojinovic was the first step in that direction.

The 38-year old Bojinovic, who spent the last three seasons at Paris Saint-Germain after 10 years with fellow French rivals Montpellier, should add steel and experience to Borac’s back court after joining them earlier this week.

“The negotiations went on for a while but he’s been training with us since the start of our pre-season build up,” Borac director Vladimir Brankovic was quoted as saying by Serbia’s B92 website (www.b92.net).

The match will be a challenge for a refurbished Alpla HC Hard, with six players leaving the club during the summer break while several others were farmed in to strengthen the backcourt. Alpla left their fans with plenty of concerns after Wednesday’s 28:26 Austrian league defeat by Union JURI Leoben.   
 

Loser Match 1 v Loser Match 2
Sunday 6 September 17.30 local time in Banja Luka

Winner Match 1 v Winner Match 2
Sunday 6 September 20.00 local time in Banja Luka, live on ehfTV

 


TEXT: EHF / br
 
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