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04.03.2019, 14:30
CSM’s injury woes and final weekend calculations
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TALKING POINTS: While Group 1’s standings cannot be changed in the last round, there is still much in play for in Group 2. Here are the takeaways after another interesting round of the Women’s EHF Champions League
 

CSM’s injury woes and final weekend calculations

The quarter-finals berths for the Women’s EHF Champions League have been secured, as Odense won the Danish derby against Kobenhavn and took another step in their first season in the competition.

Six of last year’s quarter-finalists are back, but in the same shape this time around. CSM Bucuresti are still trying to navigate an unprecedented injury crisis and their fate is out of their hands in the race for second place in the group.

After an entertaining weekend of matches, here are the big talking points from Round 5.

What’s going on at CSM?

With eight transfers announced already for the next season, CSM Bucuresti are definitely planning for the future. And who can blame them after an injury-ridden season, which nobody could have an answer to?

Cristina Neagu and Amanda Kurtovic are out for the season after ACL injuries in the winter, while Majda Mehmedovic, Andrea Lekic and Sabina Jacobsen were unavailable against Krim.

While the Slovenian side might have already been eliminated, they took full advantage of CSM’s injury woes to take a 23:22 win, which seriously complicated CSM’s future in the competition. The Romanian side had only four backs in their team for this game and losing Claudia Constantinescu in the 20th minute due to a red card did not help.

The percentage of the back line was dire, eight goals from 27 shots, and not even Iulia Curea’s nine goals could save the Romanian side.

Things are not looking good for CSM, whose final placement in the group is already out of their hands and any team would welcome a clash with the Romanian side in the quarter-finals. However, Lekic and Mehmedovic should be fit for that clash and they will surely boost CSM’s chances of progressing.

All quarter-finals berths are secured

All eight places in the quarter-finals have been secured with one match left to play. Györ and Metz already won their groups and secured a home second leg in the next phase, while familiar faces from this phase of the competition last season are Rostov, CSM, Buducnost and FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria.

Odense and Vipers are the newcomers and look like the overachievers of the season. While the Danish club are on their maiden season in the Women’s EHF Champions League, they have been impressive, drawing against Metz on home court and winning against Brest and Kobenhavn to secure a berth in the quarter-finals.

But the real surprise package is surely Vipers Kristiansand. Last season, the Norwegian champions were out of the competition in the group matches, but with their young players gaining more experience, it was a different story this time.

A 31:26 win against CSM, early in the season helped the Norwegian side earn the tiebreaker against the Romanian powerhouse and even with a loss against Györ in the last round could see them finish second in the main round.

Who will grab the second place in Group 2?

Which brings us to the next point. Group 1 is already done and dusted, with Metz winning the first place, followed by Rostov, Buducnost and Odense. Everything is set in stone, irrespective of the final round’s results.

However, the battle is still on in Group 2. Only Györ’s place is totally secured as the unbeaten Hungarian powerhouse secured first place two weeks ago.

Vipers will secure the second place if they do not lose against Györ on home court this weekend, while CSM must win to keep third place. Vipers could also lose against Györ and be second: if CSM win and FTC do not win or if CSM do not win on Friday against Thüringer.

There is a scenario where CSM leapfrog Vipers, but only if they win against Thüringer, FTC beat Krim and Vipers lose against Györ. In that case, CSM, FTC and Vipers will be tied at 12 points, with CSM winning the three-way tie, courtesy of their two wins against FTC and one against Vipers.

But the Romanian side could also be relegated to the fourth place. If they fail to win against Thüringer and FTC better the Romanian side’s result, then the Hungarian team climbs to third place.

Defence still wins games

Sheer grit, determination and a good defence are ingredients that all teams coached by Ambros Martin have. These traits can help a team rise up from the ashes and this is exactly what Rostov-Don managed after one of their worst home defeats in the competition, 26:18 against Metz in the fourth round.

Traveling to Podgorica and the red-hot Moraca Arena is no easy task, but the Anna Vyakhireva-less Rostov executed their game plan to perfection, limiting Buducnost to only 20 goals in the 23:20 win. More impressively, there were 11 players who scored as the attacking duties were spread and distributed to perfection by Martin, who secured the second place in the group and a home game in the second leg of the quarter-finals.

Powerhouses are back into the quarter-finals

The Women’s EHF Champions League may throw up a number of surprises, but the powerhouses still find enough in the tank to progress to the quarter-finals at least.

It is not a shock that Györ are in this phase of the competition for the sixth year in a row. Ditto for Buducnost, who have managed to stay in the hunt, despite everything thrown at them recently.

Since their maiden season in the competition, when they won the trophy, CSM Bucuresti have always made it through to the quarter-finals and then on to Budapest.

While Vipers Kristiansand and Odense are newcomers to this stage of the competition, Rostov will be there for the third time in four seasons, while Metz are through for the third consecutive season on the back of their first group win, meaning five teams which took part in this stage of this competition in the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons feature this spring.


TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / cor
 
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