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16.02.2016, 14:50
Three teams aim for top spot; three for two Last 16 tickets
«Go back »Print Version


GROUP A PREVIEW: Highest tension prior to Round 12, when Celje host Flensburg and Zagreb travel to a traditional duel in Veszprém

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

Three teams aim for top spot; three for two Last 16 tickets

Twelve matches lay ahead in Group A, and the only definite things are that Besiktas will miss the Last 16 and that Flensburg, PSG, Veszprem and Kiel have clinched their berth for the knock-out stage.

Prior to the Round 12 of 14 in the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase that was a big question, but still to be resolved is the ‘Zagreb, Plock, Celje’ question - which of those teams will finish in the unlucky seventh position and miss the Last 16?

Another question is: who from Flensburg, Paris, Veszprem will skip the Last 16 to directly qualify for the quarter-finals as the group winner?

Proving how tight this group was, none of those questions could have been answered before Round 12 – in a round with the pairing of a former Champions League Final and one of the most traditional duels in the history of the competition.

THW Kiel (GER) vs Orlen Wisla Plock (POL)
Wednesday, 18:30 local time, live on ehfTV.com

Forget it and move on - this is the motto for both sides after their defeats in Round 11. While Plock lost their home match against Celje 31:26, Kiel were demolished by Flensburg 37:27.

So the crucial factor will be how both sides cope from a psychological point of view.

Kiel still have to replace key players like Wiencek, Weinhold, Toft Hansen and Dissinger, while Plock nearly can play at full strength.

The first leg of this pairing was a night to forget for the Polish runners-up, who conceded the clearest home defeat in years (37:23).

Since October 2005, Kiel have not lost any of their six matches against Plock, so statistics lay in the favour of the home side.

The significance of the match is higher for the away team, as Plock still have not clinched their berth for the knock-out stage, feeling Celje breathing down their necks; only three points separates the Slovenian and Polish sides.
 
Kiel cannot finish in one of the top three positions in this group, so the German record champions, currently fourth, will have to be happy with where they are.

Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA) vs Besiktas Jimnastik Kulubu (TUR)
Saturday, 17:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

Like in their successful away match in Zagreb, Paris are again favourites - but not only due to the 40:30 win in the first leg against Besiktas.

The team of coach Noka Serdarusic still have a clean slate record at home this season, including wins against Kiel and Veszprem, while Besiktas have never won any away point in their VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase history.

After the 38:34 goal scoring spree against Veszprem and having the first leg result in mind, fans in Paris can expect a huge amount of goals.

Being equal in points with Flensburg and having a one point on Veszprem, PSG seem to have the easier programme prior to the top clash against Flensburg on 6 March.

On the other hand, Besiktas have improved during the season - mainly their back court axis Darko Djukic/Ramazan Döne is up there with the best.

But this most likely will not to be enough to conquer PSG’s den.

RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko (SLO) vs SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER)
Saturday, 19:30 local time, live on ehfTV.com

The two biggest winners of last round face in a crucial duel: The re-match of the 2004 EHF Champions League Finals (won on aggregate by the Slovenians) carries a lot of weight for both sides.

Celje - still without any home win in their regular fortress Zlatorog Arena this season - need points to remain in the race for the Last 16 and to get closer to Plock and Zagreb.

Flensburg, on the other hand, want to defend their first position in this group, and currently are equal with PSG and one point ahead of Veszprem.

Flensburg arrive in Slovenia with an impressive run of eight straight Champions League wins and nearly have all formerly injured players (Gottfridsson, Heinl) back in the line-up, as only line player Zachariassen is still out.

Celje did not only underline their ambitions by the win at Plock in Round 11, but took their only point on home court so far against Kiel (23:23) - so Flensburg will be aware of the danger despite of the clear 30:20 win in the first leg.

If Celje lose plus Plock and Zagreb win their matches, the dream of the knock-out stage is already over for Tamse’s team.

But statistics are on Celje’s side: they have won four of five home matches against Flensburg in the competition’s history.

MVM Veszprém vs. CRO HC Prvo plinarsko drustvo Zagreb
Sunday, 15:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

Though Zagreb (22 participations) and Veszprem (21) are two of the most traditional Champions League teams, they have only faced nine times by now.

On home court, Veszprem have never lost against the Croatian record champions, having one draw and three wins on their tally.

In the first leg of this season, 15,000 fans saw a close and lucky 21:20 win for Veszprém in Zagreb.

In the SEHA Liga, in which both have home matches prior to their direct Champions League duel on Sunday, Zagreb lost 19:23 at home, so they will be waiting for their chance for revenge in the Veszprem Arena on 29 February.

Zagreb showed a great mentality in their previous Champions League match, but lost to PSG, while Veszprem netted in 38 times at Istanbul to prove their attacking abilities.

Prior to their final top match in Flensburg, Veszprem need a victory to remain in the race for the number one sport of the group, while Zagreb could possibly book their Last 16 ticket in case of an away win, having nine points on their account so far.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / bc
 
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