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05.02.2016, 17:50
Fierce battle for knockout stage berths continues
«Go back »Print Version


GROUP 2 PREVIEW: Five teams in the tougher of the two main round sections are back in action, as the fight for quarter-final tickets resumes with undiminished ferocity

»EHF CL Channel »2015-16 Women's CL
»Main Round
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Fierce battle for knockout stage berths continues

The three-week long break in the Women’s EHF Champions League has in all likelihood allowed the teams to recharge their batteries ahead of the home straight.

Group 2 has so far produced a myriad of fascinating battles which left five teams in contention for four quarter-final berths, and there is little doubt the tussle will go down to the wire.

Holders Buducnost face a tricky trip to unpredictable FC Midtjylland, while former champions Györi Audi ETO KC are at home to Romania’s emerging giants CSM Bucuresti.

Vardar, who are bidding for their first title in Europe’s premier club competition, should have a fairly straight-forward task when they entertain bottom team Sävehof.

GROUP 2

Györi Audi ETO KC (HUN) vs CSM Bucuresti (ROU)
Saturday, 6 February, 17:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

Following their hard-fought 24:22 home win over plucky Midtjylland, Romanian powerhouse CSM Bucuresti face a stern test of their credentials at Györi Audi ETO KC, who enjoyed a comfortable 26:18 success at Sävehof in the previous round.

A win would enable the Hungarian side to make a giant leap towards the knockout stages of Europe’s premier club competition, while CSM will also to hope to come away with something in order to stay well-placed to reach the last eight.

CSM have already proved they are capable of springing unlikely upsets, having earned a creditable 23:23 draw at reigning champions Buducnost in the group matches.

They will need to produce the same kind of grit and determination if they are to deny Györ, who have fired on all cylinders in the main round despite losing left back Zsuzsanna Tomori to a serious knee injury, bound to keep her sidelined for the rest of the season.

CSM warmed up for the clash with an emphatic 33:21 home defeat of HC Zalau, which left them top of the Romanian first division with a maximum 48 points from 16 games, six ahead of closest rivals Baia Mare who have a game in hand.

In a contest of two star-studded outfits, Györ will have home court advantage epitomised by fervent support from their traditionally raucous fans, who will undoubtedly again create a cracking atmosphere in an effort to galvanise their team.


HC Vardar (MKD) vs IK Sävehof (SWE)   
Saturday, 6 February, 17:30 local time, live on ehfTV.com

Vardar suffered a crushing 31:19 defeat loss to Buducnost before the break and left themselves with a mountain to climb if they are to reach the business end of the competition for the third successive season.

The Macedonian giants know all too well there is no room for error against Sävehof, the section’s bottom team who will arrive in Skopje devoid of any pressure.

“Our entire season is on the line this month, with the last four Champions League Main Round matches coming up,” coach Indira Kastratovic told a press conference.

“Hence all our efforts and resources are focused on reaching the FINAL4 and with that in mind, we simply have to beat Sävehof as anything less than two points would be a failure,” she said.

“We have to get over the Buducnost game and keep in mind that Sävehof are capable of playing at an even pace for 60 minutes, despite the fact that they have so far failed to take any points in the main round.”

Serbian playmaker Andrea Lekic added: “This is a very important match for us, especially in view of the fact that we performed well below par in our previous outing.”

“They are a typical Scandinavian outfit and we can only prevail if our fast breaks and transition of the ball from defence to attack is flawless.

“We left nothing in the tank in the last three weeks of training and therefore expect to produce a good performance.”

Sävehof had a perfect prelude to the clash in Skopje, beating Vasgterasirsta HF 26:20 in the Swedish top flight as Joanna Lindvall Haggren and Stine Lund Andreassen shone with five goals each, while Julia Eriksson chipped in with four.


FC Midtjylland (DEN) vs Buducnost (MNE)
Sunday, 7 February, 17:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

Crunch time for Midtjylland beckons, as the Danish title holders face a must-win home game against Europe’s most feared team if they are to keep alive realistic hopes of reaching the knockout stages.

That will be easier said than done against a vintage Buducnost, who showed all their might and firepower in the 31:19 mauling of Vardar which sent an ominous warning to their rivals.

With five points from six games, Midtjylland are fifth in the section and given that Vardar are expected to beat Sävehof at home, only a win against Buducnost is likely to keep the Danish outfit in touch with the top four as the home straight approaches.

In order to pull off what would be a stunning upset, Midtjylland will need to perform above their limits at both ends of the court, as they will be up against a physical and ironclad defence as well as a potent attack accustomed to ruthlessly grinding down the opposition.  

The home side will rely heavily on backcourt stalwarts Stine Jörgensen, Trine Jensen Ostergaard and Veronica Kristiansen, who will come face to face with the fearsome trio of Katarina Bulatovic, Cristina Neagu and Milena Knezevic, capable of forcing any rivals into submission.

Having amassed nine points from six games, Buducnost would make a major step towards the quarter-finals if they were to prevail in Ikast in front of a passionate Danish crowd.

Either way, fans in the venue and those watching on television around Europe can expect an enthralling contest between two fired-up teams who are always good value for money, having lit up Europe’s elite club competition on many occasions with vastly entertaining handball.


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / bc
 
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