QUARTER-FINAL PREVIEW: H 65 Höör and Union Mio Biganos-Begles with good chanced to reach the second last stage of the Women's Challenge Cup
Four semi-finalists to be decided in five matches
It is going to take five matches to find the four semi-finalists of the Women´s EHF Challenge Cup, when the second legs of the quarter-finals take place this weekend.
The reason is that the tie between Serbian HC BMS Milenium and Ukrainian PO SC Galytchanka-Lviv is being played as a doubleheader after the weekend on Monday and Tuesday.
Over the weekend, H 65 Höör from Sweden and Turkish Ardesen GSK will decide their match-up, and so will Union Mio Biganos-Bègles from France and Dutch Virto/Quintus as well as DHC Slavia Praha from the Czech Republic and their French opponents Issy Paris Hand.
H 65 Höör (SWE) vs Ardesen GSK (TUR), Saturday 8 March 16.00 local time // First leg 29:22
With a seven goal lead after the first leg, H 65 Höör are very close to reaching the semi-final for the second consecutive year.
Therefore, it is no wonder that the optimism in the Swedish club is huge before the second leg against Ardesen in their own Björkvikshallen in Höör on Saturday afternoon.
"Great defence and goalkeeper performances gave us a lot of counter attacks in the first match. It was a real team effort that put us in this great position. Everyone contributed to what we had agreed to.
"Now we are looking forward to the second leg with confidence," H 65 coach Niklas Harris said.
The winners will have to wait until Tuesday evening to know their opponents in the semi-final, as the tie between HC BMS Milenium from Serbia and Ukrainian PO SC Galytchanka-Lviv will not be decided until then.
Union Mio Biganos-Begles (FRA) vs Virto/Quintus (NED), Satuday, 8 March 16.00 local time // First leg 38:32
Biganos-Begles, who won the Challenge Cup in 2011, maintain their good chance of repeating that triumph this season.
Their six goal lead against Virto/Quintus after the first leg in the Netherlands puts the French team in a good position to clinch the semi-final berth in the return match at the Salle "Etienne Turpin" on Saturday afternoon.
But Biganos-Begles coach Emmanuel Mayonnade does not feel safe and sound yet.
"I saw some huge defensive shortcomings in our team in the first match, and particularly for parts of the first half we did not seem to be present mentally.
"I am happy to have won by six goals away, but nothing is really decided yet," Mayonnade was quoted on his club´s website.
DHC Slavia Praha (CZE) vs Issy Paris Hand (FRA), Sunday 9 March 19:00 hrs local time // First leg 27:27
The draw in Paris on Sunday obviously played the trumps into the hands of Slavia Praha before they welcome Issy Paris in the DHC Sport Hall SK Slavia Praha in Prague on Sunday evening.
However, Tomás Hlavatý, the head coach of the Czech team, is still far from being sure that his team will reach the semi-final.
"Of course, I think we are further along the way than before we went to Paris, but they will surely be well prepared this time and ready to put us under heavy pressure.
"However, we will try to benefit from the home advantage and to make use of their weaknesses," Hlavatý was quoted on Slavia Praha's website.
HC BMS Milenium (SRB) vs PO SC Galytchanka-Lviv (UKR), Monday 10 March 18:00 hrs local time
PO SC Galytchanka (UKR) vs HC BMS Milenium (SRB), Tuesday 11 March 17.30 hrs
The last of the four semi-finalists will be decided in this doubleheader in the Sportski Centar "Vozdovac" in Belgrade on Monday and Tuesday next week.
When the two teams enter the court for the first match on Monday evening, they will therefore know which team is awaiting the winner in the semi-final, whether it is H 65 Höör or Ardesen GSK.
Despite of playing both matches away, the Ukrainian team seems to be confident that they will be the ones who proceed to the semi-final.
"The Serbian side is probably one of the best options for us. I think our young team has a realistic chance to beat them and qualify for the semi-final," Lviv coach Vasiliy Kozar said after the had taken place.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / ts
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