Preview for Round 3 of the EHF Cup Group Phase
On Sunday we will have already reached the halfway mark of the Men’s EHF Cup Group Phase - and the third round will provide some major hints for the rest of the competition, as in three of the four Groups the two leading teams will face in the first of back to back matches.
In two groups, two teams with a 100% record face each other: KIF Kolding and Rhein Neckar Löwen in Group B and HBC Nantes, host of the EHF Cup Finals, and SC Magdeburg in Group D.
If HBC Nantes, the host of the EHF Cup Finals, will finish first in their group or are among the three best second ranked teams, the French team directly proceed to the Finals, skipping the quarter-finals. In this case only three quarter-final fixtures will be played, including the group winners and the two best second ranked teams.
If HBC Nantes will finish as fourth best second ranked team, they have to play the quarter-finals, in this case four fixtures with all group winners and runners-ups will be played.
In case HBC Nantes are not among the two best ranked teams in their group and miss the knock-out stage, four quarter-finals will be carried out.
RK Cimos Koper (SLO) vs. Frisch Auf Göppingen (GER)
Saturday, 19:00 hrs. local time
How will Frisch Auf Göppingen, defending champions of the old format of the EHF Cup, react to their defeat at Logrono in Round 2?
The injury-hit Germans have another really high hurdle ahead, as their hosts, Cimos Koper, are flying high after two victories against La Rioja and Eskilstuna.
The Slovenians can make a huge step towards the quarter-finals with another victory – and the Adriatic team are known for their home strength, which they already have proven in last season’s VELUX EHF Champions League, when they beat Atletico Madrid, among others.
Naturhouse La Rioja (ESP) vs. Eskilstuna Guif (SWE)
Saturday, 20:00 hrs. local time in Logrono
Confidence is high at Logrono after first beating Madrid in the Spanish league and then taking both points against Göppingen one week ago.
On the other hand, it is nearly already the last chance for Eskilstuna to keep their hopes for the knock-out stage alive after two defeats in their opening two games.
HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR) vs. TATRAN Presov (SVK)
Saturday, 17:00 hrs. local time
Two teams in serious trouble face each other in Zaporozhye on Saturday, 23 February. Motor and their opponent TATRAN Presov have zero points each on their account – after strong opening performances, both were soundly defeated in their respective second matches.
The loser of the two duels over the next few weeks is definitely out of the race for the quarter-final stage.
KIF Kolding (DEN) vs. Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER)
Sunday, 15:00 hrs. local time in Brondby
The Brondby Arena will be a cauldron and the spectators will see another clash of two titans in this competition.
Though both contenders for reaching the EHF Cup Finals in Nantes are suffering from long-term injury cases, Joachim Boldsen on KIF side and Uwe Gensheimer at Löwen, both are also on a high flyer in their domestic competitions.
Both teams lie first in the Danish and German leagues, both Kolding and Löwen have won both matches in the group and are favourites for reaching the quarter-finals.
Elverum Handball Herrer (NOR) vs. Team Tvis Holstebro (DEN)
Sunday, 18:00 hrs. local time
Elverum have opened their Group Phase campaign with two close and arguably unlucky defeats. Now the Norwegians hope to end this poor run in the Scandinavian duel against the unbeaten team from Holstebro. The Danes caused the biggest surprise in the whole competition so far, winning away to Wisla Plock thanks to a brilliant defence performance.
The back to back games between the teams could decide Elverum’s future. Another defeat would make it very difficult for the Norwegians to catch the train to the quarter-finals.
RK Maribor Branik (SLO) vs. Orlen Wisla Plock (POL)
Sunday, 19:00 hrs. local time
Orlen Wisla Plock are under pressure after their surprising home defeat to Holstebro, but back court ace Petar Nenadic stated his teams’s intent right after the game.
“Now we will have to take those lost points at Slovenia,” said Nenadic.
The host is currently unbeaten after a draw at Holstebro and a victory against Elverum – and Maribor want to be part of a perfect Slovenian club weekend, together with Koper and the two VELUX EHF Champions League teams Celje and Velenje.
HBC Nantes (FRA) vs. SC Magdeburg (GER)
Sunday, 17:00 hrs. local time
SC Magdeburg are on track to achieve their goal of reaching Nantes, after two victories in their first Group D matches.
On Sunday the former EHF Champions League winners can get an impression of the arena that will host the EHF Cup Finals, as they visit Nantes, they hope not for the last time this season.
Both opponents had a clean sweep in their first two matches and both are aiming high in these games against each other.
First place in the group could be decided after the second encounter in Magdeburg. If Nantes finish on top of this Group or are among the three best second ranked teams, they directly qualify for the EHF Cup finals without having to play a quarter-final.
Stiinta Municipal Dedeman Bacau (ROU) vs. Besiktas JK (TUR)
Sunday, 20:00 hrs. local time
The trip through Europe will come to an end in Bacau for Besiktas, as the Turks have all three away matches in a row, before they face all opponents on home ground in the other three rounds.
Like the Romanians, Besiktas have zero points on their account after two clear defeats and only the winner of this duel can hope to chase after the top two in Group D.
TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor