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11.02.2016, 17:00
Chasing pack face crunch time in fierce Group 2
«Go back »Print Version


GROUP 2 PREVIEW: Vardar, Bucuresti and Midtjylland are embroiled in a fierce three-way battle to secure quarter-final tickets, as frontrunners Buducnost and Györ lock horns in Podgorica

»EHF CL Channel »2015-16 Women's CL
»Main Round
»
 

Chasing pack face crunch time in fierce Group 2

The Women’s EHF Champions Main Round has reached a critical stage, with five teams in Group 2 still battling it out to reach the knockout phase of Europe’s premier club competition.

Holders Buducnost entertain former champions Györi Audi ETO KC in the section’s heavyweight clash, with the winners assured of advancing to the last eight, while FC Midtjylland visit Scandinavian rivals Sävehof knowing they need a win to keep alive their hopes of progressing.

Finally, Vardar are at home to CSM Bucuresti on Tuesday in a match neither side can afford to lose if they are to stay on course for a knockout stage berth.

IK Sävehof (SWE) vs FC Midtjylland (DEN)
Friday 12 February, 19:00 local time; live on ehfTV

Seemingly stuck in fifth place in the section and trailing CSM Bucuresti by two points, FC Midtjylland simply have to beat their Swedish neighbours Sävehof in order to stay in the hunt for a spot in the business end of the competition.

With the Romanian side facing a difficult trip to HC Vardar, Midtjylland will view this match as a perfect opportunity to keep up the pressure and perhaps head into the last two fixtures with an even chance of squeezing into the elite eight.

The Danish outfit is reeling from last weekend’s 28:18 home drubbing by Buducnost, while Sävehof suffered a similarly bleak afternoon in a 37:25 defeat at Vardar.

Hence, the pair of wounded teams is expected to give their best, although Sävehof have only pride to play for as they have no chance of avoiding a main round exit, having collected zero points from seven games.

Midtjylland enjoyed a perfect warm-up for their trip to Sweden, mauling Ringkobing 31:15 at home to stay level with Esbjerg at the pinnacle of the Danish top division on 26 points from 17 games.

Sävehof, in contrast, suffered only their second league defeat of the season – a 29:23 loss at Heid, which left them tied at the top of the Swedish first division with Skuru, on 32 points from 18 games.

Buducnost (MNE) vs Györi Audi ETO KC (HUN)  
Sunday 14 February, 19:00 local time; live on ehfTV

A true clash of the titans on the cards, as Buducnost look to avenge the 22:20 setback they suffered against Györ in the reverse fixture, their first defeat in the competition in 20 months.

Apart from bragging rights at stake in a match featuring the winners of the last four EHF Champions League titles (Buducnost 2012 and 2015, Gyor 2013 and 2014), the outcome will also be vital in their battle for the section’s top spot.

Buducnost were at their vintage best in last week’s demolition of Midtjylland with backs Katarina Bulatovic and Cristina Neagu rifling in seven goals each, while new signing Neli Irman chipped in with five.

Roster depth gives the Montenegrin side’s coach Dragan Adzic a wide variety of options in all departments, while Györ have to put up with the continued absence of towering left back Zsuzsanna Tomori, who is out for the season with an injury she sustained during last December’s World Championship.

Although impressed by his team’s performance in Ikast, Adzic readily acknowledged that Györ would be a different prospect.

“We want to improve on the performance we produced in the previous match against Györ,” the coach told his club’s official website.

“They are a fantastic team and they showed that in no uncertain terms throughout the competition. We are looking forward to the clash because it represents a handball feast.”

Györ warmed up for the clash with an impressive 29:21 Hungarian Cup win over Ipress Center-Vac which left their Spanish coach Ambros Martin purring with delight.

“Apart from advancing to the next stage of the competition, I am especially proud of our young players who showed uncanny maturity,” Martin told Györ’s official website.

Emma Hudak, who made her first senior appearance, added: “I am happy I even got the opportunity to score my first goal at senior level.”

But with so much at stake in Podgorica’s Moraca Hall, Martin will surely rely on his stalwarts to do the job in an electrifying atmosphere.

CSM Bucuresti (ROU) vs HC Vardar (MKD)
Tuesday 16 February, 19:00 local time; live on ehfTV

This is a totally unpredictable contest between two even teams, with CSM Bucuresti looking to bounce back from a 28:22 defeat Györ while Vardar restored some of their bruised confidence with an expectably emphatic homed win over Sävehof.

Blown away 31:19 by Buducnost before beating the Swedish side, Vardar continue to blow hot and cold in a topsy-turvy season in Europe’s premier club competition this season.

Having led the charge against Sävehof along with Croatian Andrea Penezic as they scored six goals each, Vardar’s Serbian playmaker Andrea Lekic emphasised how important the win was ahead of the daunting trip to Bucharest.

“It was a very important victory which restored our confidence and finally put a smile back on our faces,” she told reporters.

Coach Indira Kastratovic added: “We must not stop here and our sights are firmly on the visit to CSM Bucuresti. We have to go there believing we can win.”

The Romanian side maintained their perfect record in the national league with a 38:19 whitewash of Ramnicu Valcea which left them firmly in the driving seat on a maximum 57 points from 19 games, three ahead of traditional rivals Baia Mare who have 18 wins and one defeat.

Both Bucuresti and Vardar will see the outcome of their clash as essential to hopes of securing a top-three finish and making sure they draw somewhat favourable opposition, with their passage into the knockout stage by no means certain yet.

With Midtjylland lurking in fifth place and ready to pounce, defeat could in the long term be costly for either side in the tougher of the two main round sections.


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / cor
 
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