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22.10.2015, 09:20
Father faces son again as Vardar take on Kielce
«Go back »Print Version


GROUP B PREVIEW: Kielce coach Talant Dujshebaev will come face-to-face with his son Alex - Vardar’s prolific right back

»EHF CL Channel »2015-16 Men's CL
»Group Phase
»
 

Father faces son again as Vardar take on Kielce 

The round’s curtain-raiser offers an intriguing clash between the competition’s debutants IFK Kristianstad and dark horses Rhein-Neckar Löwen on Thursday (22 October), with the German side aware that they could be facing a possible banana skin after bold performances by their Swedish rivals in the opening five games.

The pick of the lot, of course, is the meeting between HC Vardar and TS Vive Tauron Kielce, with father and son on opposite ends again as the fixture constitutes a repeat of last season’s riveting quarter-final doubleheader.

Barcelona are strong favourites at home against Kolding Kobenhavn, as are MOL-Pick Szeged versus Montpellier HB.

GROUP B

IFK Kristianstad (SWE) vs Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER)
Thursday, 22 October 19:30 local time, live on ehfTV

At first sight, this should be a straight-forward task for the Bundesliga leaders Rhein-Neckar Löwen, whose only defeat of the season in all competitions came in a 25:19 reverse at HC Vardar two weeks ago.

The Mannheim Lions have since bounced back with a resounding 30:25 home win against Szeged while they also continued to dominate the German top division.

Löwen have a 100 per cent record in domestic competition, proudly occupying the pinnacle with 10 wins from as many games, six points ahead of champions and nearest rivals THW Kiel.

Having misfired against Vardar, Rhein-Neckar Löwen’s free-flowing attack was back to its best against Szeged and there is little doubt that the Swedish debutants face an uphill battle to contain the visitors.

They made a dream start with a 33:26 home rout of KIF Kolding Kobenhavn but have since suffered four successive defeats as lack of top-level experience and a thin roster has taken their toll.

Their coach Ola Lindgren made it clear in no uncertain terms before the campaign started that his youthful side were here to learn and perhaps pick up a few points on home court when given the opportunity.

IFK will hence again head into the match devoid of any pressure and assured of passionate support from their fans, appreciative of being privileged to watch Europe’s finest for the first time.

 
MOL-Pick Szeged (HUN) vs Montpellier HB (FRA)
Saturday, 24 October 17:00 local time, live on ehfTV

A battle between two teams vying to stay in the top six and thus secure a berth in the VELUX EHF Champions League knockout stages at the end of what is turning out to be a fiercely competitive group phase.

With two wins and three defeats each, neither Szeged nor Montpellier can afford to drop too many points as debutants Kristianstad and a rejuvenated Kolding Kobenhavn are hot on their heels.

Therefore, both sides will head into the fixture under pressure to deliver, notably Szeged whose away form suggests they will need to pick up all the points they can get on home court.

The Hungarian side downed the likes of Kielce in the opening round before a dip in form confined them to the bottom half of the standings.

They lost out narrowly to Barcelona in their other home fixture while suffering tame defeats by Rhein-Neckar Löwen and Vardar away.

Their only away success came against Kristianstad, who were also beaten by Montpellier away in the previous round on Saturday.

The French outfit have also had a topsy-turvy campaign so far, their other win coming at home against Kolding Kobenhavn while they were blown away by Kielce, Barcelona and Vardar.

Beating the bottom two teams suggests Montpellier have what it takes to reach the business end of Europe’s premier club competition but to sting Szeged in Hungary, they will need to produce something special.  


HC Vardar (MKD) vs KS Vive Tauron Kielce (POL)
Saturday, 24 October 17:30 local time, live on ehfTV

Fans in Skopje’s Jane Sandanski arena can expect another epic clash between Vardar and Kielce.

The Macedonian giants’ faithful, bound to throng the venue, will no doubt be baying for revenge after last season’s painful 55:51 aggregate quarter-final defeat at the hands of the Polish champions.

And once again, Kielce’s iconic coach Talant Dujshebaev will get up, close and personal with his son Alex, hoping that his outfit can contain him in an explosive match-up.
Dujshebaev junior was Vardar’s best player in the 33:31 return leg defeat by Kielce of last season’s doubleheader when he rifled in nine goals, having been reduced to just two in the 22:20 first leg defeat.

What Vardar will want to focus on, though, is chinks in the armour which appeared in the 33:31 loss to bottom team Kolding Kobenhavn, ruthlessly exposing rear-guard cracks in a side known for their ironclad defence.

The setback ended Vardar’s perfect run of four successive victories and although they stayed top of the table, the general feeling will be that the front-runners must up their game if they are to get back to winning ways swiftly.  

Kielce, on the other hand, have had a rollercoaster campaign so far, having amassed six points from five games.

The opening defeat at Szeged might have been somewhat unexpected but the Polish champions seen out a pair of creditable draws against Rhein-Neckar Löwen and Barcelona, having soundly beaten Montpellier and Kristianstad.

Having Michal Jurecki as a solitary scorer in the competition’s top 25 underlines a well-balanced attack with players sharing the workload with selfless hard work.

What Talant Dujshebaev will ask his players to do is to produce the same kind of steely defence which saw them down Vardar in the opening act of last season’s quarter-final, otherwise the floodgates might open if his son Alex is given as much room to operate.


FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP) vs KIF Kolding Kobenhavn (DEN)
Saturday, 24 October 20:05 local time, live on ehfTV

Anything other than an emphatic Barcelona win would be a major shock in this clash, although Kobenhavn will head into it with rocketing confidence after beating group leaders Vardar in the previous round.

That, however, was achieved on home court while the Danish side’s away from this season has offered little to suggest they are capable of repeating the feat in more adverse circumstances.

Having recuperated from the opening 22:21 defeat at Rhein-Neckar Löwen with three straight wins, Barcelona showed grit and resolve in clawing out a 30:30 draw from the jaws of defeat at Kielce in the previous round.

With a setback looking imminent, their Danish pivot Jesper Noddesbo was left unmarked on the six-metre line to beat the buzzer and salvage a point.

Barcelona have been far from their best so far, with versatile playmaker Nikola Karabatic’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain leaving a void at both ends of the court.

The defence occasionally looks paper-thin against top quality opposition while the attack is often bereft of ideas as new signing Filip Jicha still needs time to adapt.

Despite the glitches, however, Barcelona remain one of the prime candidates to reach the FINAL4 and as such will be asked to fire on all cylinders against unpredictable Kolding.

The visitors, for their part, will hope that left back Lasse Anderson, a rising 21-year-old star, can reproduce some of the 10-goal magic which sank Vardar while also banking on the steady hand of stalwart playmaker Bo Spellerberg.


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / bc
 
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