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31.03.2016, 14:40
Unbeaten Rostov are on top of the power rankings
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FEATURE: Four women's handball experts shared their opinions before ranking the eight remaining teams in this year's Women's EHF Champions League.
 

Unbeaten Rostov are on top of the power rankings

There are only 12 games left in this year’s competition and the Women's EHF FINAL4 is shaping up to be the most exciting and the most balanced one ever, with a flurry of contenders that are set to clash in Budapest.

However, with only four berths for the big event, the following week is set to be a crucial one, with all of the remaining teams in a do-or-die scenario.

Women’s handball experts Björn Pazen (Germany), Amina Idrizi (FYR Macedonia), Adrian Costeiu (Romania) and Bence Martha (Hungary) analysed the main round results and the team’s current status after a month’s break to crunch the pre-quarter-finals power ranking.

There is only one team who remains undefeated after 12 games: Rostov-Don. With a rare blip, a 29:29 draw against FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria, in their most difficult game up to date for the Russian powerhouse.

Therefore, it is no surprise that Rostov was chosen in the top 3 teams by all experts, followed closely by Buducnost and Györ Audi ETO KC, as the Montenegrin side scraped to the top of the other group, but with losses against Györi and HC Vardar.

8 FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria

While the Hungarian side has been almost flawless on their home court, stopping Rostov’s cruise to a 12-game winning streak, their away record was hopeless.

The Hungarian champions lost all their three main round games against Rostov, HCM Baia Mare and Larvik by a combined margin of 16 goals. Their 33:22 drubbing at the hands of Györ in the Hungarian League on the 26 March does not help either.

7 CSM Bucuresti

A myriad of injuries that compelled Kim Rasmussen to let Carmen Martin (normally right wing) play as a right back for large chunks of their games did not help Bucuresti’s chances in their group.

CSM are getting Line Jorgensen back after a knee injury, but Martin, Mayssa Pessoa De Oliveira and Linnea Torstenson will not be at 100%. Therefore, the chances for a surprise against Rostov are getting slimmer and slimmer.

6 HCM Baia Mare

HCM was the surprise package in the main round, taking five wins from a possible six-game sweep. Having to play against Buducnost, with Cristina Neagu returning to her best, is a whole different story.

Adriana Nechita, Gabriella Szucs and Melinda Geiger will miss the games against Buducnost. Therefore, Allison Pineau’s impact will be even more important to HCM, if the Romanian side wants to make their debut in the Women's EHF FINAL4.

5 Larvik

With a thorough win against Glassverket, Larvik won their 12th consecutive Norwegian title on Wednesday. Getting back Linn-Kristin Riegelhuth Koren from maternity leave is also a plus, as the right wing will certainly boost the team’s morale.

What Larvik lacks this season is consistency. A shortage of players means more minutes on court for the others, which can cause a backlash. Having previously lost at home against Rostov and Fleury Loiret Handball, the Norwegian side must protect their homecourt in order to boost their hopes for a Women's EHF FINAL4 participation.

4 HC Vardar

With a star-studded cast, Vardar sometimes seem to play not on top of their abilities. Hard fought wins against Buducnost and CSM Bucuresti could be written off after the 31:19 drubbing at the hands of the current title holders Buducnost in Moraca.

Replacing Jan Pytlick with David Davis was a smart move, as the Spanish coach made an immediate impact, leading his team to wins against CSM and Buducnost in perfectly planned matches. It remains to be seen if Davis’ tactical nous is enough to lead Vardar to the cherished European title.

3 Györi Audi ETO KC

If Wednesday’s result, a 27:27 draw against Dunaujvarosi Kohasz Kezilabda Akademia in the Hungarian league, was the standard, Györ’s chances would be much lower in this power rankings. However, having Anita Görbicz back after her injury should be enough to boost their chances.

Last season was a train wreck for the Hungarian powerhouse. Losing against Vardar in their quarter-final, Györ have already taken their vengeance against the Macedonian team with two wins this season. Also, Györ will not forget that FTC ended their Hungarian championship hopes last year and will therefore look forward to playing against their rivals in order to make it to the Women's EHF FINAL4 again.

2 Buducnost

Dragan Adzic’s dreamteam looked unbeatable as it cruised to a near two-year period without a defeat in Europe's premier club competition, but Buducnost have their weaknesses and were thoroughly beaten by Györ and Vardar.

While the semi-final berth is closer than ever, it remains to be seen if Buducnost have the strength and the hunger for a second title in a row. What seems sure is that the Montenegrin side will have more difficulties in retaining their title if Cristina Neagu is not in a stellar form, as the Romanian left back showed over and over again how dangerous she can be.

1 Rostov-Don

It seems suitable to promote Rostov to the top of the power rankings, as the Russian side remains the only unbeaten team after 12 games.

Jan Leslie has successfully matched the Russian physical style with the traditional Danish counter attacks and versatility. With Ekaterina Ilina as a force to be reckoned with and the second best attack in the competition, Rostov is, literally, the team to beat right now, as Budapest edges closer and closer.


TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / es
 
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