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14.12.2015, 11:50
Paris Saint-Germain storm to the top of the power ranking
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NEWS REPORT: French champions reach the summit for the first time as Veszprem drop down to third place in the journalists’ ranking of 2015

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

Paris Saint-Germain storm to the top of the power ranking

The VELUX EHF Champions League is over for 2015 and ehfCL.com journalists Björn Pazen, Peter Bruun, Bence Martha, Tomas Cuncik, Zoran Milosavljevic, Kevin Domas and Nemanja Savic have put together the final power ranking of the year.

Please note that the ranking of the teams is based on their actual performance, which means one result can lift or sink a team accordingly.

10. HC PPD Zagreb (CRO)

It is always hard to predict what to expect from the young Zagreb team but snatching a point in Plock is a statement strong enough to push the Croatian champions into the top 10 teams.

It seems the abundance of young talents coming from the youth system and Veselin Vujovic guarantee that Zagreb remain a force to be reckoned, especially in Zagreb where the home crowd makes it a nightmare trip to any away side. The massive and sometimes downright mean defensive work could stun even top drawer opponents (Veszprém were restricted to 21 goals, Kiel to 22 in Zagreb) but maybe due to lack of experience at elite level they tend to throw away games.

Vujovic’s men may have a tough finish to the group phase but as one of the most accomplished teams of the VELUX EHF Champions League with their participation record, Zagreb are worthy opponents to any heavyweights of European handball.

9. HC Vardar (MKD)

The Macedonian outfit won their first four games in a row and apart from the defeat to Kobenhavn they have played like a true contender to reach the VELUX EHF FINAL4. Raul Gonzalez has built up a great squad and as summer signing Jorge Maqueda quickly settled in Skopje, Vardar are considered to be one of the toughest nuts to crack.

Their excellent defence – backed by the rock-solid  Arpad Sterbik – conceded the second fewest goals (only two more than Löwen) in Group B and when their wall is solid, Timur Dibirov capitalises on fast break chances to demoralise opponents.

They might have lost both games against Barcelona, but they made the defending champion work hard for their money. You may find Vardar higher up our ranking if they start winning important away games.

8. Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER)

Leader of arguably the world’s toughest domestic league only made it to the eight place in our ranking. Löwen lack consistency in the VELUX EHF Champions League, having beaten Barcelona they shocked their fans by losing to Kristianstad.

Löwen could be joint leader of Group B – and would surely be higher in our experts’ hierarchy had they not lost in Szeged where the German outfit practically did not stand a chance of taking revenge for last season’s Last 16 exit at the hands of the Hungarian side. Nikolaj Jacobsen’s team has a massive defence having conceded the fewest goals in the VELUX EHF Champions League, but it is worth noting that only Kolding scored less than Löwen, who might need their shooting compartment reinforced to go far in the competition.

That would be a great way to say “goodbye” to one of the best wingers in world handball, Uwe Gensheimer.

7. MOL-Pick Szeged (HUN)

The Hungarian outfit might seem to rely too much on their star players Dean Bombac and Jonas Källman but it is the genius of coach Juan Carlos Pastor that pushes the Hungarian runners-up closer and closer to the European elite.

Last season’s quarter-finalists continue to impress as only Barcelona left Szeged with both points and the Hungarian team beat Kielce, Montpellier and Löwen to secure their place in the Last 16. Bombac is simply unstoppable, the Slovenian playmaker has yet another excellent season as Bombac is trailing current top scorer Mikkel Hansen by only two goals.

6. THW Kiel (GER)

Kiel underwent a lot of major changes this summer and while their starting line-up remained one of the best in the competition, the squad was nowhere near as strong as it used to be. It came as no surprise that PSG beat them with ease and one might have thought they are done for this year.

But you can never push a team like Kiel aside. When perennial rivals Veszprem came to town, the Zebras once again got their act together and won without the suspended Domagoj Duvnjak and the injured Joan Canellas. Kiel’s problems did not disappear with the vital win but they showed they still have the quality to match the best teams.

Kiel might not be considered among the top favourites to win the competition this year but when crunch time comes the Zebras are somehow always there to upset opponents.

5. FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP)

With the new competition format it is not a big deal to lose a couple of games as teams come up against elite opponents week by week but it is indeed a landslide for Barcelona to suffer a defeat at home.

This is not the time of the year when contenders absolutely need to be convincing but the title holders had a hectic autumn. Apart from the two defeats they snatched a point in Kielce, which was pretty much a present from the Polish team and were fortunate to beat Vardar. However, Barca still sit on top of Group B.

They are done with their most dangerous games of the group phase and are likely to win the group but there’s a lot of room to improve, hence their position in the power ranking.

4. SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER)

After the defeat in Veszprém we asked Ljubo Vranjes whether his team was a giant or just a giant killer. The answer is there for you to see: PSG, Veszprém and Kiel eat Flensburg’s dust after ten rounds in Group A.

Holger Glandorf and Co suffered only two narrow defeats in the extremely balanced group and are now in top position to win the race for quarter-final spot. They boast the best goal difference having scored the second most and conceded the second least in the group and if right back Holger Glandorf stays fit, Flensburg may hold on to win the group.

They play host to Kiel and Veszprém and travel to PSG in early 2016, but this team seems ready to fight for the title.

3. MVM Veszprém (HUN)

It is not such a great tragedy to lose at Kiel by a last-gasp goal but the Hungarian champion fell from first to third due to the draw the picked up in Plock, which saw Carlos Ortega part ways with Veszprém.

Interim coach Xavi Sabaté has been doing a great job with the Hungarian outfit and Veszprém were in the lead for most of the game in Kiel but could not come up with a suitable solution to make up for the missing goals of injured marksman Momir Ilic. Last season’srunners-up are still in the race to win the group but with the defeat at Kiel it will not be enough to win games in their impregnable fortress.

The narrow defeat proves just how important Ilic is for the Hungarians, who threw away a win in the dying seconds of a game for the second time this season.

2. KS Vive Tauron Kielce (POL)

The Polish champions have already proven they are able to compete with Barcelona but somehow managed to let the victory slip from their hands at home. But they made up for it by an even bigger achievement and overcame Barca in the Palau Blaugrana.

Even at this stage of the competition this is an achievement worthy of praise and recognition and it is no coincidence that every expert put them in the best three teams of the VELUX EHF Champions League. Last year’s bronze medallists had one off day (which Vardar made good use of by handing out a devastating defeat in round six) but after their win in Barcelona, Kielce now trail Barca by a single point.

Talant Dujshebaev’s team has rocketed to second spot of our ranking for a good reason.

1. Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA)

PSG have already suffered two relatively heavy defeats this season and it remains to be seen how far the star-studded squad can go. Nonetheless, the quality of their game puts them on top of our power ranking.

Nikola Karabatic is still getting used to his new home and so far top scorer Mikkel Hansen is the leader on court, but Noka Serdarusic is getting his team ready to play to its full potential. Les Parisiens are second to none in Groups A/B when it comes to scoring, which is no coincidence if you have such world class talents in your team.

The French outfit still conceding too many goals and they have a lot of pressure to cope with as everyone is expecting PSG to finally deliver this season. Whether they can reach Cologne remains to be seen, but they are currently producing enough to the power ranking at the end of 2015.


TEXT: Bence Martha / cor
 
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