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18.03.2016, 13:00
Montpellier hope to give Flensburg a hard time
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LAST 16 PREVIEW: Both teams are looking forward to playing against each other while the German team seem to be the favourite on paper.
 

Montpellier hope to give Flensburg a hard time

The result of the battle between Montpellier HB and SG Flensburg-Handewitt is not as straightforward as it would appear. The German team, which finished third in Group A behind PSG and Veszprém, are favourites. But Montpellier, after a tough month in February, are now back in rhythm.

Montpellier HB (FRA) vs SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER)
Saturday 19 March, 17.30 (CET) live on ehfTV
 

In fact, when asked if he would rather play against Flensburg or PSG, Patrice Canayer was not unhappy with the result.
“I would rather play Flensburg than a team that we play against already four or five times a season. If we play in the Champions League, it’s to battle with new teams, or at least teams we don't know so well. For our fans too, I think Flensburg is a good draw.”

On the German side, the equation was clear before the last group phase game. Either you lose and you play against Montpellier, or you win and you have to go to Ukraine to play against HC Motor Zaporozhye.

”At least, Montpellier is closer to us," joked Kentin Mahé right after the game in Paris. “For me, it will be another special game, I never came back to play against French teams before this season, and now I'll play twice in less than a month.”

In history, Montpellier won twice against Flensburg, while conceding three defeats and a draw, back in 2012. But that was a long time ago and Patrice Canayer does not think his boys are favourites. “If I have to give you numbers, I'd say we have 20-25 per cent of going through, but that's what happens when you finish sixth in your group" the MHB coach explains. "Last season, it was about the same thing when we played against Kielce and we nearly went to the quarter-finals, even winning in Poland. You can count on us to give 100%."

Up north, Mahé believes that “at this stage of the competition, all the teams are level. One bad game away, one big defeat and being favourites doesn't mean much anymore.”

The confrontation, anyway, is one of teams which play quite a similar style of handball. Short-sized players, with an ability to share the ball and find tiny open spaces, with an oversized appetite for fast-breaks. Anders Eggert versus Michaël Guigou, Lasse Svan against Dragan Gajic, there are battles on almost every front.

And while Flensburg might have more rotations on the back-court, Montpellier have now got all their injured players back. Baptiste Bonnefond and Mathieu Grébille are now fresh and fit; while Vid Kavticnik and Guigou will provide the much-needed experience for this kind of game.

Will this be enough to make the favourites shake? “Why not?” concluded Canayer. “Apart from Barcelona, none of the big teams had an easy time here. Now is the time for my guys to step up and prove themselves.”


TEXT: Kevin Domas / es
 
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