Three mouth-watering first leg cup finals await.
EHF Women's European Cup Finals: Preview
This weekend (Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 May) will see not only the EHF Women's Champions League Final First Leg between Györi AUDI ETO KC and Buducnost, but three other EHF Women's European Cup Finals first legs.
eurohandball.com previews the first legs, some of which can be seen live on ehfTV.com - see individual games below for more information.
EHF Women's Challenge Cup
Muratpasa Belediyesi SK (TUR) vs. H.A.C. Handball (FRA)
First Leg: Sunday 6 May, 15:00 hrs (local time), Süleyman Evcilmen Spor ve Sergi Salonu, Antalya, Turkey
For the second year running, Turkish side Muratpasa Belediyesi have shown themselves to be real EHF Women's Challenge Cup specialists by once again reaching the final.
In both finals fate brought them strong French opponents in Mios Biganos (2010/11 champions) and H.A.C. Handball from Le Havre. But this year the Turks hope to win on aggregate and celebrate the title.
Muratpasa have four foreign players in their ranks: two Ukrainians in Olena Sulyma and Olga Laiuk, one Romanian in Emilia Carbune, and one from Azerbaijan, Marina Tankaskaya.
The most well-known name is Turkish national team player Serpil Iskenderoglu, a key player for Muratpasa. The back player has scored 45 goals in the tournament so far and could be crucial to the outcome of this match.
In the semi-final her side stopped the march of Fleury Loiret Handball in a very tight duel of two close games.
Their final opponents, H.A.C. Handball, defeated Croatian visitors Lokomotiva Zagreb first, by six goals. This gap was enough for the away encounter that the French lost by a three-goal margin.
Thanks to their more experienced players Paule Baudouin, Maakan Tounkara, Christiane Vanparys, Linda Pradel (all former national team players ) plus internationals Alberta Nely and Elena Polenova, the Le Havre-based team is quoted as title favourites.
But despite H.A.C. Handball’s favoured position, Muratpasa aim to win the first leg and give themselves a good lead ahead of the second leg tie next weekend.
More information HERE
Women's EHF Cup
Lada (RUS) vs. Handball Club Zalau (ROU)
First Leg: Saturday 5 May, 17:00 hrs (local time), Sportkomplex USK Olimp, Togliatti, Russia
Russian outfit Lada, with a bright past in the EHF Women's Champions League, and the Romanian club Zalau, will face each other in two fiery clashes as they battle to be crowned champions in the Women's EHF Cup.
But as well as being a mouth-watering Russian-Romanian clash, it´ll also be a fierce battle of two famous coaches in Evgeny Trefilov and Gheorghe Tadici.
Trefilov, a top defender in his playing days, also leads the Russian national team, and with the Sbornaja, the experienced tactician has a track record many of his peers can only dream of.
Just like his counterpart, Gheorghe Tadici is also a high profile on the handball court.
The Romanian coach has trained HC Zalau for 30 years, winning the domestic league three times and the EHF Women's Challenge Cup once, in 1996. But will his side celebrate again, this time in the EHF Cup?
Both coaches are famous for their verbal outbursts at their charges and have strong views about how to treat players. But despite their stern demeanour, their players love them.
Both teams have progressed with relative ease to the finals, although Lada struggled a little in the quarter-finals where they only got through on the away goal rule against Danish Team Tvis Holstebro.
Thanks to their experienced and brighter squad Lada are the favourites, but Zalau have shown stable performances so far in the competition, so the Romanians could spring a surprise.
EHF Women's Cup Winners’ Cup
FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN) vs. Viborg (DEN)
First Leg: Sunday 6 May, 18:30 hrs (local time), City Hall Dabas, Dabas, Hungary
A lot of things have changed in the last five years, since both teams were playing in the EHF Women's Champions League competition in the 2007/08 season when Viborg outclassed their Hungarian opponents in both games.
Throughout the years that have followed Viborg have continued with high-class handball and their super performance peaked a few seasons later when the Danes twice won the prestigious tournament, whilst (FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria) Ferencváros missed their chance to qualify for the elite tournament.
But last season something changed for the better for the Hungarians. Viborg weakened and after their early EHF Women's Champions League exit Grit Jurack and co. continued into the EHF Women's Cup Winners' Cup, but in the quarter-finals Ferencváros showed them the door.
The strong team of coach Gábor Elek marched through their remaining opponents like a hot knife through butter to earn first place in May 2011.
After that EHF Women's Cup Winners' Cup victory, FTC retained that form into the new season and outclassed three strong Russian opponents in Rostov-Don, Zvezda Zvenigorod and Dinamo Volgograd on their way to the final.
The team - based around the main core of the Hungarian national team - is determined to defend their title, but perhaps even more eager is a Viborg side that wants to ensure a good send-off to several of their players who will finish their career at the end of this season.
The Danes will also want to exact revenge for last year's early cup exit, but the question will be whether they stand any chance in the vociferous Dabas Arena.
They can expect the same level of cheering, chants, and drumming that the Dinamo players faced in the semi-finals, helping FTC storm to a massive 15:5 lead after 20 minutes which cemented their clear home win.
TEXT: Márk Hegedüs / AMc
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