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03.04.2019, 11:40
Györ and Metz lead the way in latest power ranking
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POWER RANKING: With the quarter-finals of the Women’s EHF Champions League in the rearview mirror, it is time to see who is hot and who is not in the European top flight
 

Györ and Metz lead the way in latest power ranking

The business end of the Women’s EHF Champions League is looming and with only eight teams still standing, the time is nigh for another power ranking column. 

A lot can happen over the course of three weeks, injuries might occur, players could return from older injuries, but the quarter-finals of the European premier competition rarely disappoint.

There is still only one unbeaten team this season, Györ, who are huge favourites against Odense, and top the power ranking, courtesy of their 12-game unbeaten streak. 

French champions, Metz, look like another team to beat, but can the injury-ridden CSM produce another surprise as underdogs?

On the other hand, FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria have the youth, but can they outfox the brilliant tactical mind of Martin Ambros? Can Vipers clinch their first DELO WOMEN’S EHF FINAL 4 berth against Buducnost? These are questions which will be answered over the next two weekends.

8. HC Odense

The ceiling was low for Odense, but the Danish side navigated the main round well, with wins against Kobenhavn and Brest. However, the Danish side could only muster one point from twelve available against the other three qualified teams. 

Therefore, the most daunting task, playing against Györ for a place in the DELO WOMEN’S EHF FINAL 4, should be too much for Odense. But anything can happen in a double-header

7. Buducnost

The Montenegrin side’s challenge to come back to the DELO WOMEN’S EHF FINAL 4 after a one-year hiatus has been dented by Milena Raicevic’s shoulder injury, as the 29-year old playmaker will definitely miss the business end of the season. Having top scorer Djurdjina Jaukovic back will help and Buducnost have the tactical nous and the defensive drive to challenge Vipers. 

They were out of sorts at the end of the main round, failing to win their last three games, including a 31:20 drubbing at the hands of Kobenhavn, but a one-month break was probably exactly what coach Dragan Adzic needed to recharge his team.

6. CSM Bucuresti

CSM are used to playing the second leg of the quarter-finals away from home, but they have been thrown into a new situation this season. It has been a season to forget for the Romanian side, who qualified for Budapest in the past three seasons, as they are huge underdogs against Metz. 

It is true, CSM thrive under pressure and love to play like a team which has nothing to lose, but they are missing backs Cristina Neagu and Amanda Kurtovic through injuries, while line player Dragana Cvijic and playmaker Andrea Lekic are doubts, their chances look slimmer day-by-day.

5. FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria

If the season ended after the group phase, nobody would have noticed FTC. A young team that looked totally out of their depth, with a porous defence, had little to show. But the main round was totally different. Two 32:32 draws against Györ and other four wins mean that FTC was one of the teams to beat in February and March. 

Rookie right back Katrin Klujber was unstoppable, scoring 44 times in six games, while left back Noemi Hafra confirmed the high expectations. Quarter-final opponents Rostov are more experienced and seasoned in this type of two-legged affair, but FTC are not a team anyone would like to meet right now.

4. Vipers Kristiansand

The Norwegian side had no away win until this season, but they are a much-improved team this season and have been a dominant force in attack, with their free-flowing style testing every type of defence. Boasting players like Katrine Lunde and Linn Jorum Sulland in their roster surely helps, yet there are a lot of promising, but inexperienced players in their roster who will play two of the most important games of their careers over the next week. It will be fascinating to see if Vipers are the real deal before their maiden DELO WOMEN’S EHF FINAL 4, or if they crumble under pressure in the raucous Moraca in Podgorica.

3. Rostov Don

Before leaving Györ last summer, Ambros Martin led the Hungarian side to four titles in the last six seasons in the Women’s EHF Champions League. Therefore, it is safe to say the 50-year old ace knows a thing or two about playing under pressure and how to prepare for a fiery quarter-final. Rostov are more consistent and a stout defensive unit, conceding the fewest number of goals, 241, in the main round. Anna Vyakhireva’s absence will be a huge blow for the Russian powerhouse, as their attacking prowess slimmed after her injury, but with Martin on the bench, Rostov must be slight favourites against FTC.

2. Metz Handball

Emmanuel Mayonnade has instilled an amazing team spirit that translated into a stout defence, the main weapon of this Metz side. Boasting eight EHF EURO 2018 champions in the side, Metz have slowly metamorphosed into one of the best teams in the competition. No wonder that their opponents’ coach, Dragan Djukic, has labelled Metz “the best side in the Women’s EHF Champions League this season.” 

Sure, Djukic has to pay his respects to his counterparts, but it will be interesting to see if Metz have learnt something from last year’s quarter-final, when CSM eliminated them after a ten-goal win at home. Experience is key in this stage of the European top competition and only the little details will separate the winners from the losers.

1. Györi Audi ETO KC

An otherworldly attack with 403 goals scored over 12 games propelled Györ to a 12-game unbeaten streak in this year’s European premier competition. There has been a paradigm shift after Gabor Danyi replaced Ambros Martin on the Hungarian side’s bench, but Györ are still the team to beat this season. They have firepower in attack, experience in all areas and look like a shoo-in to earn their fifth trip to Budapest in six seasons.


TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / cor
 
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