ROUND PREVIEW: Early top matches in Group A and B when Lugi Lund and Reale Ademar Leon meet in Sweden, and Sporting CP meet Montpellier in Portugal. Two matches from France live on ehfTV.
Top matches in Sweden and Portugal
You can already talk about a top match in Group A, when Lugi HF from Lund and Reale Ademar Leon lock horns Sunday in Sweden. Both teams won their first matches clearly, and the winner Sunday will take a major step towards the quarter-final.
This also applies to the Saturday meeting in Portugal between Sporting CP and Montpellier Agglomeration HB who could both celebrate big wins in Group B.
Also in Group B, HC Zomimak-M and Skjern Håndbold will be trying to revenge the big first round defeats to exactly Montpellier and Sporting, while HBC Nantes will be chasing their first win in Group C when taking on TATRAN Presov who started out by beating IFK Kristianstad with seven goals.
In Group D, Füchse Berlin and HCM Constanta will be hunting their second win in a row when visiting HC Sporta Hlohovec and Chambéry Savoie Handball.
It is an early top match which will be taking place in the Färs&Frosta Sparbank Arena in Lund Sunday.
Leon opened their group phase campaign with clear 28:19 home win against Hungarian side Csurgói KK, while Lugi made an at least as impressive performance in North Germany, as the Swedes defeated Bundesliga team TSV Hannover Burgdorf 32:28.
The winner of the Sunday meeting will obviously take a major step towards the quarter-finals – not least after Hannover-Burgdorf lost as big as 36:28 away against the Csurgo Wednesday night.
However, the self-confidence Lugi got through their win in Germany, may have been damaged Wednesday night as they lost 34:29 away against Challenge Cup participants IK Sävehof in the Swedish league.
“We will have to mobilise some more energy and joy, than we showed in that game,” Lugi coach Tomas Axnér stated.
It will be two teams who won big in their first group matches who meet in Pavilhao Desportivo Municipal de Mafra Saturday afternoon.
Sporting impressed by winning no less than 32:25 away against number one in the Danish league, Skjern Håndbold. The Portuguese team was even leading by 11 goals several times in the second half before finally winning by seven.
Montpellier did even better, if you compare the size of the wins, as the French team won no less than 41:22 at home against HC Zomimak-M from FYR Macedonia.
However, Montpellier were clear favourites in that encounter, so it will probably be a matter of discussion which performance was the most impressive.
Saturday, however, we will get an indication as to which of the two teams is best.
HC Zomimak-M (MKD) vs Skjern Håndbold (DEN)
It will undoubtedly be a Skjern team hungry for revenge who enter the Sport hall Strumica late Saturday afternoon.
A 25:32 defeat at home to Portuguese team Sporting CP was definitely not the kind of start to the group stage, the current number one in the Danish league had been dreaming of.
The Skjern squad has been bothered by injury lately, but apart from long-term injured right wing Jesper Dahl, all players should be fit for Saturday.
“I am happy to have 15 players fit, although there will always be minor injuries at this point of the season. However, it is nothing that our health sector cannot handle”, Skjern coach Ole Nørgaard said.
Zomimak have fine experiences with Danish opposition in the current EHF Cup, as they eliminated another Danish league team, Aarhus Haandbold in Round 3 of the qualification tournament.
After having lost by three goals in Aarhus, Zomimak won by nine at home.
Furthermore, the Macedonian side will beyond any doubt be keen on avenging their 41:22 defeat against Montpellier in the first match, so Skjern cannot say that have not been warned.
Two teams who got an unlike start to the group phase are facing each other in Palais des Sport de Beaulieu in Nantes Sunday afternoon.
While TATRAN Presov are travelling to France with an opening win of no less than 37:30 at home against IFK Kristianstad to boost their confidence, Nantes lost their first group match away to Pick Szeged.
However, the defeat ended by being as narrow as 28:27, and the French team was close to catching up with a clear deficit against number one in the Hungarian league.
In front of their own home crowd, the team under coach Thierry Anti will be eager to get their first win and stay in the race for the quarter-finals.
Hlohovec coach Martin Liptak and his Icelandic colleague by Füchse, Dagur Sigurdsson have at least one thing in common ahead of their meeting in the City sport hall of Hlohovec – and that is the Austrian club Bregenz where they have both been coaches. Actually, Liptak succeeded Sigurdsson as head coach by the former Austrian champions.
Hlohovec did not get nearly as good a start to the group phase as the other Slovakian team, TATRAN Presov who defeated Kristianstad 37:30 in their first match in Group C.
Hlohovec lost as clearly as 31:22 in Romania to HCM Constanta, while Füchse landed a relatively narrow 30:27 home win against Chambery Savoie Handball.
However, it will be a German team with injury problems who will be received in Slovakia on Saturday.
At the moment, there is doubt about left backs Pavel Horak and Paul Drux who both had to be substituted due to foot injuries as Füchse defeated SC Magdeburg 27:24 in the Bundesliga Wednesday night – and centre back Bartlomiej Jaszka did not appear in the match in the Max Schmeling Halle at all due to back problems.
Therefore, the chances in the Saturday match may depend a lot on what outfit Füchse can actually send on.
Chambéry Savoie Handball (FRA) vs HCM Constanta (ROU)
At present, Chambéry are in a relatively modest eighth position in the French league, but that does not stop them from having ambitions in the EHF
Cup and to revenge the 30:27 away defeat to Füchse in the first match, where they were able to keep up with the group favourites for large parts of the game.
A home defeat against Constanta Sunday evening would be a severe blow to the French hopes of reaching the quarter-finals – especially if Füchse get their second win, when they meet Hlohovec in Slovakia the day before.
However, they will be visited by a Romanian top side with self confidence after the clear and convincing 31:22 against Hlohovec on Sunday, and another win in France will take them a big step further in direction of the quarter-finals.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / br
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