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03.09.2017, 16:40
Meet the 10 best defences of the VELUX EHF Champions League
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FEATURE: Defending champions Vardar top the list of a brand-new power ranking focused on the most fundamental element of the game.

»EHF CL Channel »2017-18 Men's CL
»Group Phase
»
 

Meet the 10 best defences of the VELUX EHF Champions League

In its appearance, the game of handball is fast, fluent, creative and full of attractive moves. However, in awe of the flamboyance, one could overlook the true nature of the sport; the fundamental element upon which everything is built and measured – defence.

The very point of the game is to score goals; however, to be in the position to do so, a team needs to defeat the opposing defence.

All attacking effort is to no avail if a team cannot defend their lead. Also, the final objective of a well-executed defence is not only to prevent goals, but to pave the way for the swift execution of the attacking move to follow.

It is the tactical, physical and mental elements of defensive work that make the VELUX EHF Champions League such a demanding competition, reserved only for the elite.

Therefore, at the start of the 2017/18 season, for the first time, we bring you the VELUX EHF Champions League defensive power ranking.

10. PGE Vive Kielce

Kielce had a season to forget last term in all aspects – most of all, their leaky defence. Their record is bad enough without knowing that, far too many times, it was only the quality goalkeeping that saved them. The reassuring fact is that Eastern European teams have a knack for hard defence; it just needs to be awoken by Talant Dujshebaev.

9. Rhein-Neckar Löwen

The Bundesliga champions were somehow unable to translate their good defence from the domestic competition to the VELUX EHF Champions League, but we give them a green light nonetheless.

Still, as they approach the new season, Löwen will have to do some serious tightening-up on the defensive end.

8. HC Prvo plinarsko drustvo Zagreb

Somewhat of a surprise inclusion, but never underestimate Zagreb’s defensive relentlessness at home. In attack, you call it age, but in defence, it is experience. Veterans like Igor Vori still have plenty of tricks ready to make the Croatian team’s opponents’ lives a misery.

7. THW Kiel

Kiel is Kiel – it is like a mantra. And if you say it enough times, you will believe it. That is most likely what the opposition have been tricked into doing many times.

But Kiel is Kiel, and nothing comes easy against their defensive wall or goalkeeping duo of Niklas Landin and Andreas Wolff. Even in their toughest times, you can count on a gruelling defensive battle at Sparkassen Arena.

6. SG Flensburg-Handewitt

One cannot help but admire Flensburg. Even the most difficult defensive tasks seem so effortlessly easy for the German side.

All that remains to be seen is whether Flensburg can maintain their fluent style without Ljubomir Vranjes at the helm.

5. MOL-Pick Szeged

One of the most intimidating home teams in the competition rank high in the defensive power ranking with good reason: Szeged made low-scoring matches their signature feature last term.

But despite struggling in attack more often than they would have liked, the frugal approach did wonders for their defensive strength. It is no coincidence that Szeged boasted the lowest number of goals conceded after the 2016/17 group phase.

4. FC Barcelona Lassa

One of the most lethal attacks in handball derives straight from the effective defence. Regardless of whether it is 6-0, 5-1, 3-3 or any other variation, Barcelona have it all.

With Viran Morros the commanding presence in their zone, backed by lethal goalkeepers and the resulting fast breaks, Barca can hurt in a number of ways.

However, a plethora of variety on tap can be both blessing and a curse. Sometimes, too much tactical tinkering gets in the way.

3. Telekom Veszprém HC

Although they are prone to occasional lapses, Veszprém’s defence is a safe bet. No team managed to reach the 30-goal mark against them in the 2016/17 regular season.

The Hungarian side now has a new coach, Vranjes, as well as several new players in key positions, but they still depend heavily on their good old 6-0. Some call it consistency, while others argue Veszprém may be too reliant on their aging stars (eg. Ilic and Nagy), but 6-0 is what made them one of the most consistent defences in the competition.

2. Paris Saint-Germain Handball

Last year’s VELUX EHF FINAL4 participants demonstrated some impressive defence at times – but could not back it up with consistency. The potential is there however, with an abundance of individual quality on their roster.

With Nikola and Luka Karabatic alongside the likes of proven specialist Henrik Mollgaard at the heart of their defence, PSG are high on our list – and their ability will only grow as the season progresses.

1. HC Vardar

The defending champions are a textbook example of defence. Vardar’s defence excels in all three elements: tactical, physical, and mental. But, it is not only due to the towering presence of Ilija Abutovic, Mijajlo Marsenic, Vuko Borozan and the like.

Raul Gonzalez’s team conceded the fewest goals in 2016/17, whilst having created more chances from their defence and in transition than any other team.

In the upcoming season, it is safe to expect more of the same, as the arrival of Dainis Kristopans underlines the tactical approach that led the Macedonian team to the trophy.


TEXT: Nemanja Savic / cg
 
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