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15.10.2015, 11:20
Two powerhouses set the clash in Group D
«Go back »Print Version


GROUP D PREVIEW: Buducnost will be poised for another perfect season but face an early test against CSM Bucuresti
 

Two powerhouses set to clash in Group D

Group D is set for an epic showdown between title holders Buducnost and fresh face CSM Bucuresti.

Cristina Neagu will face her hometown team and the third place looks up for grabs between MKS Selgros Lublin and Sävehof IK, which boasts one of the youngest teams ever in the competition.

It’s hard to win the Women’s EHF Champions League, but even harder to defend your title. Only four teams managed to retain their status in the European top flight's competition history.

But Buducnost’s plans are clear: the Montenegrin side are trying to emulate what Hypo Niederösterreich, Slagelse DH, Viborg HK and Györi Audi ETO KC have already achieved.

The question is simple: how to follow up on a perfect season, in which Buducnost were undefeated, with 15 wins and a draw from their 16 matches?

The Montenegrin team think they have found the answer by preserving most of last year’s winning side. Only Clara Woltering and Marina Rajcic, the two goalkeepers, are key losses as Buducnost prepares for their 20th season in the Women’s EHF Champions League.

A fresh face, with aspirations of a powerhouse

Buducnost will have no time to spare as the challenge is bound to get tougher.

The first reality check will come in the group stage in the spirit of CSM Bucuresti, Romania’s new champions.

A fresh face with aspirations of a powerhouse, CSM is the first team from the Romanian capital to ever play in the European premium competition.

Such ambitions will never go unnoticed but CSM have already stated they are here to stay and try to win their first European trophy.

With transfers such as right back Line Jorgensen and EHF EURO 2014 all-stars Isabelle Gullden and Maria Fisker, the Romanian side have splashed the cash and made a statement.

World champions Mayssa Pessoa, Ana Paula Rodrigues, Deonise Cavaleiro and Fernanda Franca da Silva bolster CSM’s squad, a team that is engineered to impress.

However, the run-up to the start of the competition was far from ideal.

In August, a 25:31 loss in the Super Cup against archrivals Baia Mare shook the core of the team.

It was far from a surprise that coach Mette Klit was sacked but CSM’s management acted quickly and appointed another Danish coach.

Kim Rasmussen took over and had three weeks to prepare for the debut.

“It’s my first experience in the Women’s EHF Champions League, but I have international experience, so I am more than ready for this challenge." said Rasmussen.

Lublin tries to qualify after two consecutive misses

CSM’s debut will be on their home turf against Polish champions, MKS Selgros Lublin.

"We will play our first game against MKS Selgros Lublin and that will be a huge advantage for us, as I know them well.” concluded Rasmussen, who has been the Polish national team coach since 2010.

At their 12 participations in the European flagship competition, the Polish champions hope to achieve their third qualification from the group matches.

It is likely that Marta Daniewska’s side will battle for the third place with Savehof but their official objective is to maintain a perfect record in their home matches.

After two unlucky seasons, in which the qualification to the next phase eluded Lublin, the Polish side are ready to go one step further in the Women’s EHF Champions League and experience is the key factor in their endeavor.

Experienced Iwona Niedzwiecz has come to help, while goalkeeper Weronika Gawlik is making her comeback after a injury-riddled season.

Youngest team ever for Savehof

Savehof won their seventh consecutive national title but they will find life in the Women’s EHF Champions League more difficult.

Boasting one of the youngest squads ever in the history of the competition, the Swedish side will try to employ their usual play; a defense-first minded, counter-attacking handball.

However, without proven players at this level and after the team’s top scorers last season, Jenny Alm and Ida Oden, left the club, Savehof will have a mountain to climb.

But the Swedes are eyeing up their third consecutive Main Round berth and will surely prove to be a plucky team.

 

CSM Bucuresti (ROU) vs MKS Selgros Lublin (POL)
Friday 18:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

The Women’s EHF Champions League will kick off in style in the biggest city of this year’s competition.

A newcomer by all means, CSM Bucuresti has big ambitions in the next years, highlighted by the plethora of stars that form the framework of the team.

World champions Mayssa Pessoa, Deonise Cavaleiro, Fernanda Franca da Silva and Ana Paula Rodrigues are playing in the second year of their contracts, while Isabelle Gullden, Maria Fisker (both from Viborg HK), Line Jorgensen (FC Midtjylland) and Jelena Grubisic (Gyori ETO Audi KC) were brought this summer.

However, CSM received a big blow on Wednesday, when Linnea Torstenson, the team’s leader, underwent a knee surgery and looks set to miss all the group’s matches.

“It would be amazing to qualify for the FINAL4 in Budapest. I know it is a hard task, but with a team this good, everything can be achieved”, said Constantin Caliman, CSM’s president.

The Bucharest side enjoyed a thorough try-out on Wednesday, as they thrashed HCM Roman in the Romanian National League, 30:20.

The game against Lublin, who lost both of their matches against Romanian opposition last year, 25:30 and 22:28 against HCM Baia Mare, will be a special one for Aurelia Brădeanu.

The 36-year-old playmaker will make her 100 appearance in the Women’s EHF Champions League, an adventure she started in 1997, at former Romanian powerhouse Oltchim Ramnicu Valcea.

But Lublin will hope to spoil the party, even if the Polish side is a big underdog in the game. The Polish side is trying to achieve its second ever progression from the group phase, after they reached the quarter finals in 2002.

Buducnost (MNE) vs IK Savehof (SWE)
Sunday 19:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

Merely a year ago, Buducnost was kicking off their most successful campaign in the European premium competition with an irresistible win against fellow powerhouse Vardar Skopje, 23:17.

It took 15 wins and only one draw for the Montenegrin side to win their second title in the Women’s EHF Champions League in the last four years.

And now, Buducnost is roaring to get back in style in Budapest. The current champions have slowly built up their form, losses against HCM Baia Mare, CSM Bucuresti and Rostov-Don in friendly matches leaving coach Dragan Adzic unfazed.

“I am happy that the girls played in international matches, as they had good preparation for the debut against Savehof. Now we have to up our game because we need to play better to retain our title”, said Adzic.

Buducnost has lost Clara Woltering and Marina Rajcic between the posts, therefore Marta Zderic will play a more important role. But the team’s strength still relies in a stellar back court line, with last year’s top goalscorer Cristina Neagu in brilliant form, scoring 19 goals in Romania’s qualifying matches for the EHF EURO 2016 against Lithuania and Belarus.

On the other side, the Swedes boast a perfect start in the Swedish League, with four wins in their four matches. However, the Buducnost test will be much harder for a young and inexperienced team.

Losing Jenny Alm, Jenny Wikensten and Ida Oden this summer was a serious blow for the Swedish team, which continued to stay true to its philosophy. Therefore, new recruits from one of Europe’s best handball academies made it to the top ranks, but the reality check will be harsh against the titleholder.


TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / ec / bc
 
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