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02.10.2015, 21:30
Super Saturday with two traditional duels
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GROUP A PREVIEW: All-German derby in Kiel, while Zagreb hope for another upset against Veszprém

»EHF CL Channel »2015-16 Men's CL
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Super Saturday with two traditional duels

It is derby time on Saturday. All four matches of VELUX EHF Champions League Group A throw-off within four hours and featuring two traditional duels as Kiel host Flensburg and Veszprém travel to Zagreb. In addition, Paris-Saint Germain will have their maiden voyage to Turkey and Celje are eager to erase memories of their unlucky home defeat to Zagreb against Plock.

GROUP A

RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko (SLO) vs Orlen Wisla Plock (POL)
Saturday 16:00 hrs. local time, live on ehfTV

The only time these teams faced to date was in 2004, shortly after Celje became EHF Champions League winners and the Slovenian record champions had no problems in beating the Poles twice.

Now times have changed. Celje are in a state of transition, counting almost exclusively on young players, while Plock have an internationally experienced squad.

In the race for one of the top six spots, the hosts are one point ahead of the “Oilers” after beating Besiktas in their opener before unluckily losing against Zagreb. Plock had higher mountains to climb as they faced Veszprem and PSG so far.

The Celje shooters are ready, as shown by the record breaking 38:11 league win against Sevnice on Wednesday, in which Brazilian Arthur Patrianova had his comeback after a seven-month injury break.

The club received another boost after coach Branko Tamse confirmed he will remain “100% Celje”, as he denied an offer from the Slovenian Federation to assist national team coach Veselin Vujovic during the Men's EHF EURO 2016 in January.

Plock also showed an outstanding attacking performance in their league match against Mielec on Wednesday, winning 42:22.

THW Kiel (GER) vs SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER)
Saturday 17:30 hrs. local time, live on ehfTV

It is already the third time these northern German rivals face off this season in the space of 45 days: While THW won the Super-Cup, 27:26, Flensburg defeated their neighbours in Bundesliga, 30:25.

If you needed another hint as to how well these teams know each other, Steffen Weinhold wore the SG jersey until 2014 (and won the Champions League with Flensburg), while Rasmus Lauge and Mattias Andersson had previously been a part of Kiel’s squad.

“It will be great, but also a bit strange to return to Kiel and go to the away team’s dressing room,” said Lauge, who moved to Flensburg in June.

The all-German duel (re-match of the EHF Champions League finals 2007 and 2014) is also one between the line player brothers Rene (THW) and Henrik Toft Hansen (SG). “My brother is always joking that they beat us in the league, now hopefully it will be my turn to laugh,” said Rene, newly appointed team captain of THW.

Last season, Kiel eased past Flensburg twice in the Last 16 matches, but Flensburg have a much more imposing squad now. Both sides won their Bundesliga matches on Wednesday and both lie on two points in Europe after each one victory and defeat.

The Sparkassenarena will be sold-out with 10,250 fans – who will create an electrifying atmosphere. It is the eleventh time both sides face in the Champions League, with Kiel ahead by six wins, one draw and three defeats. In overall, it is the 85th derby. Kiel won 52 times, Flensburg 28 times and four matches ended in a draw.

Besiktas Jimnastik Kulubu (TUR) vs Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA)
Saturday 18:00 hrs. local time, live on ehfTV

Four wins in four matches and a goal difference of +29 in the French league shows that PSG are a class of their own. However, the engines in the VELUX EHF Champions League are not running quite so smoothly. After the 32:39 defeat at Flensburg the 29:24 win against Plock was extremely hard-earned.

Now Nikola Karabatic & Co. have their first competitive match on Turkish ground and will be the clear favourites despite the home advantage of Besiktas. “We have to improve in international competition, but we are confident to take our second win,” said Luka Karabatic prior to their second away match.

Besiktas were taught two lessons so far - by Celje at home and in Kiel. “If we can play like we did in the first half at Kiel, we can have certain hopes,” says Besiktas player Ugur Coban.

HC Prvo plinarsko drustvo Zagreb (CRO) vs MVM Veszprém (HUN)
Saturday 20:00 hrs. local time, live on ehfTV

Zagreb are flying high at the moment as they are one of the rare teams all over Europe that can boast a clear record in all competitions. Two wins against Kiel and Celje in the VELUX EHF Champions League and three victories in the SEHA League are on their tally. Another win against their old rivals would not only mean another huge step towards the Last 16, but to remain on top of Group A for another week.

After the departure of coach Carlos Antonio Ortega, Veszprém beat Flensburg at home – but still it is unclear whether interim coach Xavier Sabate will remain at the helm of the team. The Spaniard expects a ”tough and difficult match” in Arena Zagreb in the duel of the only unbeaten teams of this group: “The young Croatian team gets stronger every year and it will be really hard to fight against their defence.”

The game will be a sort of homecoming for Veszprem’s Croats such as goalkeeper Mirko Alilovic, line player Renato Sulic, who is due to return on court after his injury break against Flensburg and back court ace Ivan Sliskovic.

Zagreb again can count on their team captain Zlatko Horvat, who was suspended for the match at Celje. In the previous matches of both traditional Champions League teams, Zagreb in their 22nd season, Veszprem’s 21st, the Hungarian record champions have won four times, Zagreb three times and one match ended in a draw.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor
 
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