Preview for the first leg of the EHF Cup Quarter-finals
Three or four nations represented in the end? This is the main question before the quarter-finals in the Men’s EHF Cup.
After EHF Cup Finals host HBC Nantes (France) are directly into the event, the last three spots will be decided over the next two weekends.
One German and one Danish team will certainly clinch their berth for Nantes and the encounter of Maribor vs Göppingen will decide, whether Slovenia will also be represented.
KIF Kolding (DEN) vs. Team Tvis Holstebro (DEN)
Sunday, 16:50 hrs. local time at Brøndby
(Second leg 28.04.2013, 16:50 hrs. local time
Wednesday evening provided a good preview for this match, as KIF Kolding secured a spot in the semi-finals of the Danish league play-offs with a 26:19 victory at Holstebro and only four days later they face again in the first leg of this competition.
KIF had already secured their spot for next season’s VELUX EHF Champions League by finishing on top of the ranking in the regular season of the Danish league.
They will be boosted with the comeback of their strongest defender Joachim Boldsen, who is back on track after being out through injury for several weeks.
“I feel ready to fight,” Boldsen was quoted on the club website www.kif.dk.
If Kolding progress, players like Kim Andersson, Kasper Hvidt and Boldsen will have the honour to be at two different final tournaments in consecutive seasons after they had been part of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne in 2012 with their former clubs.
Holstebro, for their part, can also make history. Their women’s team already made it to the finals of the EHF Cup and the men will be desperate to follow suit.
Holstebro had finished their group on top position, while Kolding were among the two best second ranked teams.
RK Maribor Branik (SLO) vs. Frisch Auf Göppingen (GER)
Saturday, 18:00 hrs. local time
(Second leg 27.04.2013, 19:30 hrs. local time)
“We never faced them, but I know Maribor very well,” said Göppingen’s coach Velimir Petković before the first leg.
“I analysed our Group Phase opponent Cimos Koper by a video of their match against Branik, and I really appreciate the way Maribor plays. It will be anything but easy,” Petković added.
Göppingen had won both duels against Koper on their way to finishing first in their group. Maribor let group victory slip from their hands after losing the final match at Elverum – but qualified as the only Slovenian team at this stage of any Men’s European Cup competition by finishing second their group.
Göppingen will have to replace Mitar Martez (cruciate ligament rupture), and it is still unknown, whether their top scorer Žarko Marković will be able to play in the first leg at Slovenia.
Maribor had eliminated Wisła Płock in the Group Phase and have been given a huge confidence boost before these encounters.
Göppingen can write history if they raise the trophy on 20 May. It would be their third straight EHF Cup, they would also be the last name on the winner’s list of the old format and the first of the new one.
SC Magdeburg (GER) vs. Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER)
Sunday, 17:00 hrs. local time
(Second leg 27.04.2013, 19:00 hrs. local time)
This all-German duel even has an international history.
Former EHF Champions League Magdeburg and 2011 VELUX EHF FINAL4 participant Löwen have already faced four times in European Cup competitions – 2006 in the EHF Cup and 2008 in the Cup Winners’ Cup.
Löwen took three victories, Magdeburg one and the overall head to head record is even clearer. In 23 matches, Löwen won 16 times, SCM only six times.
The last time both teams met in Bundesliga on Easter Sunday, the first ever draw occurred between the teams (20:20).
This season has already seen Löwen eliminate Magdeburg in the German Cup.
“We want to end this series,” SCM goalkeeper Björgvin Gustavsson told eurohandball.com.
Both teams have injury problems, but Löwen have been hit harder: After Uwe Gensheimer (torn Achilles) and Oliver Roggisch (rupture of interior ligament), goalkeeper Goran Stojanović will miss the quarter-finals due to a torn muscle fibre in the thigh.
On the bright side, Swedish international Kim Ekdahl du Rietz (torn muscle fibre) is back in the team.
Magdeburg have to replace German international Andreas Rojewski (broken thumb), while Slovenian international Jure Natek might be back on track after nearly one year away due to a crucial ligament tear.
The dress rehearsals in the league were quite different on Wednesday: While Löwen remain on second position of the Bundelsiga after winning at Gummersbach, Magdeburg dropped a point with a draw against Großwallstadt.
TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor