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15.10.2015, 11:50
Former champions and optimistic new teams
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GROUP A PREVIEW: Ambitious Baia Mare visit modest Krim, while Larvik take on debutants Rostov-Don.
 

Former champions and optimistic new teams

RK Krim Mercator have even done it twice although it was quite a while ago.

In the 2000/01 season and again two years later, the Slovenian club won the tournament while Larvik won it in the 2010/11 season.

The two remaining teams in the group, HCM Baia Mare and Rostov-Don have never made it that far.

Rostov-Don are even debutants in the tournament, but both teams are hungry for success.

Once again, Larvik have qualified for the Champions League group matches as clear Norwegian champions.

Actually, the team from the south-west of Scandinavian has won all three titles – league, play-off and cup.

However, it is a team, which has undergone several changes in their 16th Champions League campaign.

Tor Odvar Moen, who has had several different functions in the club since 1997, had taken over as head coach from Ole Gustav Gjekstad who took the team to the EHF FINAL4 last season, and five players have also left, the most prominent being right back and right wing Linn Jorum Sulland who is now with Györ Audi ETO.

Sulland is a Norwegian international, just like another key player who is missing - right wing Lin Kristin Riegelhuth Koren (maternity leave).

New players have been signed, though, and among those, right back Amanda Kurtovic seems to be the most interesting newcomer, based on her performances in the pre-season and the first part of the season.

Jenny Osnes Graesholt also seems like an interesting new signing on the right wing in a Larvik team who are not likely to have any trouble qualifying for the main round. The only question is from which position.

Rostov-Don are debutants in the Women’s EHF Champions League, but rather immodest debutants, we have to say.

Among their goals for the season is “to win two matches at the FINAL4 in Budapest.”

However, there is a certain basis for optimism in the club, which won the Russian championship for the first time last season.

The team has been further reinforced after reaching the EHF Cup final last season, with Norwegian goalkeeper Katrine Lunde joining from Györi Audi ETO KC is probably most prominent signing.

The charismatic Danish coach Jan Leslie seems to have a nearly perfect mix of experienced players and talents with plenty of potential to work with.

The first indication of Rostov-Don’s chances in the competition may come already in their first group match away against Larvik.

HCM Baia Mare are not Champions League debutants, but the Romanian club is still relatively new in the tournament.

This season is only their third season in the Champions League, but the third in succession.

Baia Mare had to go through the qualification tournament to reach the group matches this year, but they had no problems winning their qualification group on home court, and the fact that they come from the qualifiers will probably not make any opponent underestimate them.

Players like Lois Abbingh, Valentina Ardean Elisei and Allison Pineau, just to mention a few, always guarantee a certain quality.

However, the Slovenian champions RK Krim Mercator, are in the Champions League group matches for the ninth time in a row, but they may have certain trouble living up to their performances of the past.

Even though their experienced coach Marta Bon has performed wonders before, she will have her work cut out for her with Krim’s young and rather inexperienced squad this season.

Group A throws off in Ljubljana and Larvik

Arena Stozice in Ljubljana and Arena Larvik are the venues of the first matches in Group A of the Women’s EHF Champions League.

RK Krim Mercator are hosting HCM Baia Mare, and Larvik face Champions League newcomers Rostov-Don.

GROUP A

RK Krim Mercator (SLO) vs HCM Baia Mare (ROU)

Friday 16 October 19:00 local time, live on ehfTV

Krim have a proud tradition in the Champions League, which they won in 2001 and 2003.

The Slovenian champions are trying to get back to that level by developing young talents with large potential.

“We are following a new strategy with the focus on developing players.

“In line with our (Krim) club’s vast and successful history, our goals are the same – we want top results,” head coach Marta Bon explains to ehfCL.com

“We have a young team, but we also have with some experienced players, and we hope they can lead our inexperienced young players to success.

“However, in our current situation, we have no problem Baia Mare being labeled as favourites in this match; we will do everything to present ourselves in the best light in front of our fans,” she adds.

This season is Baia Mare’s third in the Champions League, and their third in succession.

In their debut season, they had to bow out after the group matches.

Last season, they made it two steps further, to the quarter-finals, and the ambitious Romanian club is obviously eager to make it even further this time.

They had to go through qualifiers to reach the group matches this season, but the qualification caused then no problems, and now they are ready for their first Champions League meeting with Krim.

Larvik (NOR) vs Rostov-Don (RUS)
Saturday 17 October 18:30 local time, live on ehfTV

Champions League debutants Rostov-Don have a challenging start to their life in this prestigious tournament.

An away game against Larvik is a tough one to open with, and the Russian champions’ Danish coach Jan Leslie is well aware of that.

“Larvik will be favourites no matter who they meet, as they are a top-class team, which they are also going to prove this season.

“Furthermore, there is no doubt that they have one of Europe’s best home courts, so for us it is all about playing with care and making as few mistakes as possible,” Jan Leslie tells ehfCL.com.

“If we can perform well and stay within touching distance with ten minutes left, anything can happen. However, this is a game with nothing to lose for us, as all the pressure is on Larvik,” finds Leslie.

In Larvik, former assistant coach Tor Odvar Moen has taken over the job as head coach from this season, and in his opinion, the fact that Rostov-Don have a Scandinavian coach, suits his own team rather well.

“There is no doubt that Jan Leslie has added some Scandinavian handball culture to the Rostov-Don team, and we are obviously very familiar with that.

“At the same time, however, he has kept some of the best things from the Russian handball culture, and hence he has created a team who will be very difficult to beat,” Tor Odvar Moen tells ehfCL.com.

“We are suffering from not really having had any foreign opposition in our pre-season, and our team is not quite at full strength yet, so I obviously expect a difficult match,” adds Tor Odvar Moen.


TEXT: Peter Bruun / bc
 
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