ROUND PREVIEW: While some teams have their quarter-finals tickets at reach, the other will fight for a survival. Three matches will be broadcast live and free of charge on ehfTV.com
Montpellier and Szeged can take decisive steps, three matches live on ehfTV
Montpellier Agglomeration HB in Group B and Pick Szeged in Group C can take decisive steps towards the quarter-final of the Men's EHF Cup this weekend, when the group phase starts again after a three week break.
The French and the Hungarian team are the only teams with maximum points after the first half of the group matches, so in case of home wins this weekend, both will be on eight points in their groups.
Obviously, both teams still risk only being second in their group, and the poorest number two may not reach the quarter-final. But with eight points, you are not likely to be the poorest number two.
Therefore, Montpellier and Szeged can take a huge leap towards the quarter-final through home wins against Skjern Håndbold and TATRAN Presov. Both matches and the Chambery vs Hlohovec encounter in Group D will be streamed live on ehfTV.com.
Füchse Berlin can also take an important step in case of a home against HCM Constanta in Group D, while it is last call for TSV Hannover-Burgdorf in the most open group, Group A, where Lugi HF will need to get back on track when they receive Csugói KK.
Only the fact that the group is extremely tight, with only three points separating number one and four, means that Hannover-Burgdorf still have the chance to reach the quarter-final.
The North German team got their first point through the 30:30 in Leon three weeks ago, but the “Recken” will need more than that, when they meet the Spanish team in the reverse match in the Swiss Life Hall in Hannover Sunday afternoon.
With four points after their first three matches, Leon may be more able to afford a defeat, but being only sixth in the Spanish Asobal league, the EHF Cup seems to be their only chance of success this season, and this will probably make them extra keen on keeping their lead in the group
So far, Csurgo have been untouchable at home in the group phase, defeating Hannover-Burgdorf 36:28 and Lugi 25:22.
Away, however, they are still waiting for their first points, and Lugi are undoubtedly going to do all they can to prevent the Hungarian team from changing that situation Sunday.
After having been ten goals down in the two teams' first meeting in Hungary, Lugi managed to reduce the defeat – their first in the group phase - to three goals, and if the Swedish team is to stay in the race for the quarter-final, they need to get back on track and win in Färs&Frosta Sparbank Arena in Lund Sunday.
And Lugi can enter the court with a success experience in mind. Thursday night did they win the local derby in the Swedish league against the other Lund team H 43 by 32:24.
After three defeats, two of which have been extremely big, Zomimak are virtually out of the race for the quarter-final, while Sporting have a fine chance to proceed from the group.
Having won clearly away against Skjern and Zomimak and having managed to offer Montpellier relatively fine resistance, the Portuguese team has been one of the positive surprises in the group phase this season. A further win in FYR Macedonia Saturday will bring them a lot closer to the quarter-final, not least if Montpellier win at home against Skjern in the other match in the group this weekend.
However, Zomimak are not giving in, according to their head coach Marjan Andonov.
“We are waiting for our first victory and hope to win Saturday. Against Skjern we were unlucky to lose by one goal, and now we hope for better luck against Sporting,” Marjan Andonov told eurohandball.com.
Sporting coach Frederico Santos is cautious and does not put much into the fact that his team won the first match against Zomimak by 17 goals.
Together with Pick Szeged in Group C, Montpellier is the only team who did not lose a single point in the first half of the group phase.
A 6:0 lead at the start of the away match against the Danes three weeks ago helped Montpellier to their 26:23 win in that game, and on home court in the Palais des Sport René Bougnol, the team of coach Patrice Caneyer will obviously be favourites Sunday.
Yet, Skjern have shown impressive form in the Danish league lately, and to them, the match in Montpellier will probably be their last chance to keep their dreams of reaching the quarter-final alive.
Therefore, Skjern may still be some kind of a challenge to Montpellier Sunday afternoon.
If Nantes want to copy their achievement from last year when they reached the final of the EHF Cup, a win in this home match is a must.
With four points in three games, the French team has done absolutely acceptable until now, but that may change in a hurry in case of a home defeat against the Swedish team who have not got a point in the competition yet, though.
“We realise that our chance to reach the quarter-final is gone, and to us it is now a matter of learning as much as possible and getting as much experience as possible from our last matches in the tournament.
“After a clear defeat (27:23) at home against Nantes, the task will obviously be even tougher away,” Kristianstad coach Ola Lindgren told eurohandball.com.
One might think that TATRAN would be travelling to Hungary with a lot of self-confidence ahead of the match against the top team in Group C.
That win was in the SEHA League, but it has to be mentioned that Metalurg were without several key players.
Still, Szeged coach Juan Carlos Pastor expresses great respect for the Slovakian visitors.
“We are expecting a difficult match. We will have to play as good as in Presov in the first match (31:29 for Szeged) or maybe a little better to have chance to win against TATRAN. Our opponents play handball with a very good rhythm, so our defence must work perfectly. The basic of our play must be good defence,” Pastor told eurohandball.com.
The expectation for a difficult match seems to be mutual.
“The away game at Szeged will be extremely hard. They showed super class in Presov and they will be even stronger at home. They form one of the best European clubs at the moment,” TATRAN's right back Dainis Kristopans recently told eurohandball.com
Having only lost one point so far in the group phase, the Berlin Foxes have put themselves in a very good position in Group D.
However, the point they have lost, was lost against exactly Constanta who are the opponents against Sunday, so quite naturally, the team from the German capital will be eager to take both points at home in the Max Schmeling-Halle.
With only one point less in second position, Constanta also have their eyes set on the quarter-final, and in Berlin, they are aware of the importance of the match.
“That will probably be the most important match so far this season for us,” Füchse coach Dagur Sigurdsson told the club's website, while manager Bob Hanning said: “The game against Constanta this weekend is of elementary importance. A success can influence on the entire rest of the season in a positive way.”
After a defeat to Füchse and draw against Constanta, Chambéry finally got their first win in the group phase, as they won 29:24 away against Hlohovec who they are meeting again Sunday evening.
Nothing less than another win against the Slovakian team who have not got any points yet, would do for the French team in Le Phare in Chambéry.
In Hlohovec, head coach Martin Liptak mainly sees the match as a learning process for his players.
“Each game in the group phase of the Men's EHF Cup is like handball high school for our team. We respect the strength, tradition of a club like Chambéry SH, but we will fight for the best result,” Liptak promised eurohandball.com.
Chambéry are trying to get as much support as possible from the standings by granting free entrance for all children under 12 years of age.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / br
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