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24.01.2018, 18:00
Last year's finalists top Power Ranking
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POWER RANKING: ehfCL.com presents the current top 10 teams of the Women's EHF Champions League, two days before the start of the main round

»EHF CL Channel »2017-18 Women's CL
»Main Round
»
 

Last year's finalists top Power Ranking

As the Women’s EHF Champions League 2017/18 is progressing to the main round, it gets increasingly harder to separate the best of Europe. It comes down to old school versus innovation, tough defence against rampant offence, designated scorers opposing the spread-out team effort.

With such a plethora of choice, the EHF has asked its experts from all across Europe to weigh in on the top performing teams so far in the competition.

With many contrasting opinions, and the likes of Larvik, Thüringer HC and Bietigheim falling short of their stern requirements, the experts agreed on two things: it is difficult to look past Vardar’s form and Györ’s defence.

So here is the latest Women’s EHF Champions League Power Ranking.

10. FC Midtjylland

Despite several other teams in close contention, the list concludes with Danish club FC Midtjylland. The fortunes of last season’s quarter-finalist revolve heavily around Veronica Kristiansen’s form. The rampant centre back scored the pick of goals, most notably, reaching double digits (11 goals) against Györ.

However, in such a competitive group, last year’s success seems a bit far-fetched for the one-woman show that Midtjylland are this season. It gets edgy if Kristiansen’s form doesn’t translate into team effort, and their talented back court cannot step up to the challenge.

9. Nykøbing

The feisty Danes showed they were no pushovers as they reached the main round in their debut season. The shock win against the favourites CSM still echoes in their home venue, instilling confidence and hope, as the in-form Johanna Westberg ranks among the top five scorers.

Their fast pace and flamboyant style of play pleases the eye, however, as the Women’s EHF Champions League progresses, playing aesthetics will have to make way for efficiency and defensive solidity, which is where Nykøbing have come short so far.

8. Krim

Having progressed from the group phase for the milestone 20th time, the Slovenian champions have quite a tradition in the Women’s EHF Champions League. However, Krim have not made it past the main round since reaching the semi-finals in 2012/13.

This year, however, Krim impressed with the balance of youth and experience, and sheer talent and virtuosity of their 20-year-old playmaker Tjasa Stanko.

Going beyond the main round may still be a daunting task, but if coach Uros Bregar can find a timely remedy for their leaky defence, the over-performing Krim may well become a surprise package.

7. FTC

After two quarter-final appearances in a row (2015/16 and 2016/17) the expectations are high for the Budapest-based team. However, in reality, the Hungarian runners-up have a lot of work to do. Despite experienced back court stars Nerea Pena, Aniko Kovacsics and Laura van der Heijden supplying the goods in attack, this team needs a lot more defensive focus.

FTC are facing stern competition from the likes of Vardar, Metz, Buducnost Bietigheim as well as Thüringer HC and have to step it up if they are to have any chance of progressing past their last-season’s record.

6. Buducnost

Dragan Adzic was determined to have it his way, and so, the dawn of the new Buducnost is on the horizon. The Montenegrin tactician is taking giant steps with his exciting new project this season; and indeed, one of the youngest teams in history of the Women’s EHF Champions League could have done much worse than a place in the main round.

Moreover, to ensure this young Buducnost are not be bereft of their champions’ DNA, they have kept all the feats of their signature low scoring game, ranking among the four best defences in the competition.

The experts labelled them as “overachievers,” and we will keep an eye on their progress as nobody really knows the limits of this young, enthusiastic bunch, playing for experience.

5. Rostov

The Russian side have seemingly found their form in later group matches as the newcomers adapted, having solidified their defending. Still, the team coached by Frederic Bougeant remain frugal in attack, which keeps them a full step behind our top four.

The absence of Ana Sen and Vladena Boborovnikova left Rostov’s back court options sparse, with Alexandrina Barbosa the only natural left back in the team. However, with at least one world-class player on almost every position, this team is built for the big things. With the right guidance and a little bit of luck, Rostov can reach their potential and become a Women’s EHF FINAL4 contender this season.

4. CSM

No team in the Women’s EHF Champions League is as unpredictable, or as capable of staging a surprise, as CSM. After many changes this season, the Romanian side still need time to gel as a whole, while still being a bit too dependable on Cristina Neagu.

But nobody knows CSM better than EHF’s Romanian correspondent, Adrian Costeiu.

“Best 9-metre line, growing pains after a lot of changes in the summer. Had players and coaches winning all medals at the World Championship, including a 4th finish from Gullden, Jacobsen, Hagman with Sweden,” Costeiu says.

With Neagu’s tireless presence in all phases of the game, it is safe to say the Romanian star is the heart and soul of this team, but their identity as well as consistency is still to be found.

3. Metz

Everyone is keen to see how surprise package Metz will keep up. The French team gained many admirers this season for their feisty defence and ruthless back court, topping Group D with style after winning all but one of their matches.

Dark horse? No more. Metz are entering the main round with a bigger bounty on their heads, and with reaching the EHF FINAL4 no longer just a dream but a potential reality. However, that could become a motivation as well as a stumbling block for the prolific Ana Gros and her teammates.

2. Györ

All experts agree on one thing – defence wins championships. Györ’s attack this season may have been just above average, but the Hungarian team’s goal is as safe as it could be. Ambros Martin has done wonders solidifying their - otherwise effective - defence. The frugal approach helped Györ maintain their form, despite the circumstances often preventing them to play the way wanted to.

EHF’s Scandinavian expert Peter Bruun says: “Györ managed to win a tough group despite several injuries,” leaving food for thought what could come next when the Hungarian giant are back to full strength.

1. Vardar

Still undefeated, the Macedonian powerhouse steamrolled their opponents in quest for their maiden trophy this season. Vardar shone well above their rivals, with consistency and teamwork, showing excellent depth and cohesion throughout. The Macedonian side have not missed a beat even without their charismatic playmaker Andrea Lekic for the better part of the group matches.

Last year’s Women’s EHF FINAL4 finalists certainly left no second-guessing on their title credentials, but good form is hard to achieve and even harder to maintain. Sitting confidently atop our ranks, the main round could pose a significant challenge for coach Irina Dibirova and her team.

Vardar need to prevent complacency and a drop in form ahead of the latter stages of the competition, which cost them the trophy in previous years. But, if the fabled Russian can keep her team’s feet firmly on the ground and eyes on the prize, lifting the trophy in Budapest might not be just a dream anymore.


TEXT: Nemanja Savic / ew
 
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