VELUX EHF Champions League Round 4 Preview
The VELUX EHF Champions is going straight into their fourth consecutive week – before the competition will have a break until middle of November. And Round 4 can be enormously decisive, especially for the top teams, which all have to face tough tasks. The upcoming 12 matches already start with three fixtures on Wednesday, and Group B will already be finished on Thursday.
Chekhovskie Medvedi (RUS) vs. Montpellier Agglomération (FRA)
Thursday, 20:30 hrs local time
How did both teams cope with their more or less clear defeats against German clubs in Round 3? Especially Medvedi did expect much more than to be thrashed by ten goals at Flensburg, as Montpelier played quite well under all circumstances against Hamburg. The French champions still wait for their first victory, as Medvedi have three points on their account.
Chekhovskie goalkeeper Richard Štochl will have a special motivation facing his former team. Many others will remember the thrilling quarterfinal of the 2009/10 season, when a penalty shoot-out at Montpellier had to decide. Medvedi were the lucky winners and qualified for the VELUX EHF FINAL4.
HSV Hamburg (GER) vs. Partizan Beograd
Sunday, 16:00 hrs local time
In a race with their local rivals from Flensburg, HSV are fighting for the top position in Group A. And Hamburg have the easier task at home against the Serbian champions, though Partizan just had written club history by beating León on home ground – their first victory in the Group Stage of the EHF Champions League after nine years. HSV newcomer Stefan Terzić will face his Serbian country-fellows.
Though Partizan presented themselves much stronger than in the previous season, a victory at Hamburg would be a major sensation.
Reale Ademar León (ESP) vs. SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER)
Sunday, 17:30 hrs local time
After losing at Partizan the worth of the surprising victory at Montpellier was close to zero for Ademar León. Like the Serbs they have two points on their account. Now they face top ranked Flensburg. The Germans just defeated Medvedi easily and are unbeaten in this season. The outcome will be thrilling, as Flensburg have the more experienced team, but León have the full support from the stands on their side.
In the 2008/2009 season both teams faced in the Main Round of the EHF Champions League, and both teams won their home matches – León 36:32 and Flensburg 31:26.
IK Sävehof (SWE) vs. BM Atlético Madrid (ESP)
Wednesday, 19:00 hrs local time
No one would have expected Sävehof and Madrid equal in points before their direct duel after three rounds. But as Madrid lost their home matches against Veszprém and Kiel and Sävehof only took the points at home against Constanta, this constellation is real before the throw-off. Madrid will need to replace their goalkeeper Jose Javier Hombrados and Danish left back Nicolaj Markussen in Gothenburg.
The Swedish champions have the great opportunity to move closer to the Last 16 by beating the favoured Spaniards, who have one Swede – Jonas Källman - in their team.
HCM Constanta (ROU) vs. Celje Pivovarna Laško (SLO)
Thursday, 20:00 19:00 hrs local time in Buzau
It is time to get some points for Constanta – after a depressingly clear defeat at Kiel, the Romanian champions still have zero on their account. At Buzau they now hope to break the spell. By beating Celje they can catch-up with the Slovenian runners-up, which took his only victory against Sävehof – but had shown a great fight against Madrid before. A tight match is expected.
MKB Veszprém KC (HUN) vs. THW Kiel (GER)
Thursday, 19:00 19:00 hrs local time
Marko Vujin back at Veszprém: The return of the former MKB shooter will be the biggest story of this match of the two dominating teams of Group B. Both have six points on their account, both have won the away match at Madrid, both are in a brilliant form.
So the duel of their right back shooters – Vujin on the one hand and extra-ordinary László Nagy on Veszprém side – might be decisive in this top clash. Besides the performance of the goalkeepers – Thierry Omeyer vs. Alilović/Fazekas – could be a determining factor for this encounter.
Though both teams have a long history in the EHF Champions League, the number of fixtures THW vs. MKB is quite low: The last time both faced was in the quarterfinals of the 2006/07 season, when Kiel proceeded by winning the home match 39:32 after losing at Veszprém 36:39. So again a big number of goals can be expected. Thursday’s winners even make a great step to be group winner in the end.
Gorenje Velenje (SLO) vs. Bjerringbro Silkeborg (DEN)
Wednesday, 20:00 hrs local time
Again, this will be a path-finding duel for the Last 16 spot in this group. As Velenje and Bjerringbro – like St. Petersburg – are equal by two points the result of this encounter can give a hint for the future. Both teams took their respective victory on home ground, so the Slovenian champions are a bit of a favourite.
HC Metalurg (MKD) vs. St. Petersburg HC (RUS)
Saturday, 18:00 hrs local time
Three matches, three victories – the self-assurance of Metalurg Skopje could not be bigger. Thanks to their brilliant defence including goalkeeper Darko Stanić the Macedonians are on a high-flyer they want to continue against the Russian runners-up. In the previous season they faced each other with a tie at the Baltic Sea and a 32:19 at Skopje. Not only due to this constellation the host is favoured – as they want to remain the only Kielce hunter – or, due to the result of the Polish champions in France, maybe even become the hunted.
Chambéry Savoie (FRA) vs. Vive Targi Kielce (POL)
Sunday, 19 :00 hrs local time
(ehfTV.com Match of the Week)
The French runners-up are far below the expected results and are close to an early elimination after three defeats in three matches. Not even their fortress in the Alps was an advantage when they lost their home opener against Metalurg. Now it is two minutes to midnight for Chambéry.
On the other hand Kielce have won all their encounters more or less in a dominant way – and they can count on an improved defence and top scorer Ivan Čupić. But maybe it is a good omen for the French that they had beaten Kielce in a thrilling fight in the 2010/11 season on home ground 27:26 (but then lost clearly at Poland).
Füchse Berlin (GER) vs. Kadetten Schaffhausen (SUI)
Wednesday, 19:00 hrs local time
Both teams had won their encounters in Round 3 before they meet for the very first time on international ground. Backed by their spectators Berlin are supposed to be the favourite – and they need two points if they want to remain in second position. Kadetten have broken the spell against Zagreb and can play without big pressure in the German capital.
Dinamo Minsk (BLR) vs. Pick Szeged (HUN)
Thursday, 18:30 hrs local time
The position in the standings with one point after three matches does not reflect the performing level of Dinamo Minsk. The Belarusians were surprisingly clearly dominant at Barcelona, but gave a draw from their hands five seconds before the end. Before they had played brilliantly against Zagreb, but finally had to be lucky with a draw after they had already shown a great performance at Berlin.
So now the time might have come for their first victory in this VELUX EHF Champions League season – especially as Dinamo have good memories of Szeged: The 33:29 in October 2010 was their first ever win in the European premier club competition.
The Hungarians lost against Berlin on home ground in Round 3, and if they get defeated, they will be overtaken in the ranking by Minsk.
HC Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb (CRO) vs. FC Barcelona Intersport (ESP)
Saturday, 18:00 hrs local time
Hardly any fixture in the EHF Champions League has a longer history than Zagreb vs. Barcelona. In 1997, 1998 and 1999 both clubs clashed in the final, with Barcelona winning all trophies against current Zagreb coach Slavko Goluža and his team-mates. Later-on both clashed several times in all stages of the competition. In the 2011/12 season Barcelona won by one goal at the Croatian capital, but then were defeated by Zagreb on home ground, and in the 2009/10 season, Barcelona eliminated RK in the Last 16.
Now times have changed, especially the Zagreb team have undergone certain changes, but present very well with three points on their account. Barcelona luckily were not defeated by Minsk in Round 3 and top the table as the only unbeaten team of group D, having the optimum of six points on their account.
TEXT: Björn Pazen / br