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18.03.2016, 12:50
Zagreb promise one thing for fans in the "battle of lions" - spectacular handball
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LAST 16 PREVIEW: Croatian champions take on the Lions from Mannheim in the Match of the Week on Saturday and will try to snap a six-game winless streak against the German side.
 

Zagreb promise one thing for fans in the "battle of lions" - spectacular handball

After three years PPD Zagreb and Rhein-Neckar Löwen meet again in the VELUX EHF Champions Legaue. But this time it is in a different stage of competition.

Lions from Zagreb will meet Rhein-Neckar Löwen for two great matches in Last 16 stage. First leg match will be played in Arena Zagreb, fortress of Zagreb Lions which is not that easy to conquer. On the other hand Croatian champions have failed to win in all six direct encounters with this German side in the past on the European level losing three and tying three other matches.

The Saturday's game is the Match of the Week with English commentary by Tom O Brannagain on ehfTV.com. In addition mobile reporting from behind-the-scenes will be available on the match day on ehf_live twitter and snapchat accounts.

VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16, first leg:

MOTW: HC PPD Zagreb (CRO) vs Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER)
Saturday 19 March, 20:00 hrs, live on ehfTV

Last time these two teams met was in 2013 when they played together in Group A. Rhein-Neckar Löwen won both those matches. They were especially convincing in first match by winning 34:26.

In that match Stipe Mandalinic shined for Zagreb scoring nine goals. Even though he did not play much this season due to knee injury, in last few matches he showed he is back on track. If it is to be judged by 2013, he loves playing and scoring against Löwen.

In return match in Zagreb Löwen had far more difficult assignment to complete. They won by four goals but had very tough game and that is what Zagreb is counting on in this first leg of Last 16.

“They can expect a very tough match in Arena Zagreb and I believe that we can win,” said Filip Ivic for ehfCL.com.

Rhein-Neckar Löwen coach Nikolaj Jacobsen also stressed for the club’s official website that Zagreb plays great at home: “They are having very good season and in the match against Kiel where they won 29:22, they didn't show all they can do.“

Jacobsen said that he is happy they do not need to play against Kiel in Last 16, but is very aware of a threat Zagreb can pose in this double-header.

"I want to warn that we have been marked as favourites in these encounters. Zagreb has a very young team, very talented and they want to prove themselves,” added Jacobsen.

Zagreb want revenge for those two defeats three years ago but they will need to be at their best performance to do so. Sebetic shined against Kiel with eight goals, Mandalinic against Celje with ten and they will both have to repeat that together with great defense and goalkeepers if they want to win.

“It is going to be a very tough match. Rhein-Neckar Löwen are currently the leading team in Bundesliga.

“For us this is the most important match of the season because we are now in the top sixteen. Löwen play fast and attractive handball. They have top-class wing players and some of the best players in the world on some positions.

“I believe in my team because we showed that we can play with best teams,” said Ivic for ehfCL.com. While Zagreb captain Zlatko Horvat and Domagoj Pavlovic should be fit to start the game on Saturday following their minor injuries, problems with a shoulder will sideline Sandro Obranovic.

Nikolaj Jacobsen’s team experienced some surprising loses in Group B and did not showed consistency throughout group stage. They want to be in quarter-finals but for that they need to beat Zagreb youngsters who are eager to mess up their plans.

“We are going to prepare as best as we can - both mentally and physically. I can only promise one thing for the fans – spectacular handball,” said Luka Sebetic for ehfCL.com.


TEXT: Jelena Bagaric / br
 
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