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09.02.2018, 10:55
Göppingen begin hunt for hat-trick as EHF Cup bursts into life
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ROUND PREVIEW: Back-to-back champions Frisch Auf Göppingen start their hunt for their third successive title as the group phase of the Men’s EHF Cup begins in earnest this weekend

»EC Channel »2017-18 Men's EHF Cup
»Group Phase
»
 

Göppingen begin hunt for hat-trick as EHF Cup bursts into life

After Saint-Raphael Var Handball opened the group phase with a 26:21 away win against Füchse Berlin on Wednesday night, this weekend sees Round 1 really get going, with Frisch Auf Göppingen chasing their third title in succession alongside five former finalists and two debutants among the 16 contenders.

· Füchse Berlin, who played on Wednesday, and Frisch Auf Göppingen are the only teams in the group phase who have won the tournament

· St. Raphael, Chambery and Granollers have also reached the EHF Cup Finals in recent years

· Swiss side Wacker Thun and Poland’s KS Azoty-Pulawt SA are the only group phase debutants

GROUP A

Bjerringbro-Silkeborg (DEN) vs TATRAN Presov (SVK)
Saturday 10 February, 14:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

Last season, Bjerringbro-Silkeborg reached the Last 16 of the VELUX EHF Champions League, but this season, the Danish team are seeking success in the EHF Cup, where they reached the quarter-finals of the 2015/16 season.

Shortly before the start of the group phase, Silkeborg reinforced the squad with Serbian left back Drasko Nenadic.

“I have joined a strong club which fights to win titles and it is important to me to represent an ambitious club.

“I want to win each and every time,” said Nenadic.

He and his teammates will be starting their group phase campaign against TATRAN Presov who were in the VELUX EHF Champions League the previous two years and who qualified for this stage on away goals against Icelandic FH Hafnarfjordur.

TATRAN are coached by former Croatian international Slavko Goluza, who also had a spell as Croatian national team coach.

SKA Minsk (BLR) vs SC Magdeburg (GER)
Saturday 10 February, 18:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

Minsk are no strangers to this level, having competed in the group phase two years ago, but they will be seriously tested by visitors SC Magdeburg, who reached the EHF Cup Finals last season and will host the event this May.

However, Magdeburg are not expecting an easy trip: “Minsk is difficult to access. However, our first goal is to qualify from the group,” Magdeburg´s head coach Bennet Wiegert says, who will not be taking any challenge lightly after his side scraped through to this stage with a one-goal win over Romanian side Constanta.

GROUP B

Helvetia Anaitasuna (ESP) vs Lugi HF (SWE)
Saturday 10 February, 19:00 local time

After Saint-Raphael defeated Füchse Berlin 26:21 already Wednesday, the Saturday night meeting in Pamplona will be the only match in this group this weekend.

The current number five in the Spanish league welcome fourth-place in the Swedish top flight.

Anaitasuna will be thriving to copy their achievement from last season, when the Spanish side reached the quarter-finals, as will Lugi, who are back in Europe after four years of absence, and also made it to the quarter-finals in their latest EHF Cup campaign in the 2013/14 season.

GROUP C

Cocks (FIN) vs RD Koper (SLO)
Saturday 10 February, 17:00 local time

Finnish champions Cocks are in the EHF Cup group phase for the second year in succession. Just like last season, they accessed the group phase after failing to qualify for the VELUX EHF Champions League, and they will obviously be keen on doing better than last season, where they did not gain a point, despite being involved in some close games.

RD Koper have a somewhat brighter European history, reaching the quarter-finals of the EHF Champions League in the 2011/12 season and with Slovenian national team coach Veselin Vujovic leading the team, they are determined to taste success in Europe once again.

Frisch Auf Göppingen (GER) vs RK Nexe (CRO)
Saturday 10 February, 19:30 local time, live on ehfTV.com

Having won the EHF Cup the past two years and hosting the final event last season, Göppingen are understandably eager to emulate that success this year.

The first visitor to the EWS Arena will be Croatia’s RK Nexe and it will be a special occasion for Göppingen´s Croatian line player Kresimir Kozina, who represented Nexe for two years.

“Of course, I want to win this match in particular. The match is also extremely important to our team, as a win in our first match will mean an important step towards the quarter-finals,” Kozina told his club’s website.

GROUP D

Chambery Savoie Mont Blanc Handball (FRA) vs Fraikin BM. Granollers (ESP)
Saturday 10 February 20:45 local time, live on ehfTV.com

Both teams, who meet in Le Phare in Chambery Saturday night, have been in the EHF Cup Finals before and even met at the event in 2016.

On that occasion, in Nantes, they met in the 3/4 placement match, which Granollers won 25:21.

Chambery will be thirsty for revenge for that defeat and to claim vital points at home, when they take on the Spanish side once again on Saturday night.

KS Azoty-Pulawy SA (POL) vs Wacker Thun (SUI)
Sunday 11 February, 16:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

The only Sunday match this weekend will also be the meeting between the only two debutants in the group phase.

Pulawy were eliminated in the third and final qualification round the two previous seasons, but this year, the Polish club have finally made it to the group phase.

As for Wacker Thun, whose squad consists entirely of Swiss players, their best achievements in Europe so far have been qualifying for the group phase of the Champions League in the 2013/14 season and reaching the Challenge Cup final in 2011/12.


TEXT: Peter Bruun / cor
 
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