ROUND PREVIEW: Saturday night around 22.00 CET, all four semi-finalists in the Men's Challenge Cup will be known.
Cocks with a special preparation ahead of their trip to Sabac
The second legs of all quarter-final ties in the Men's Challenge Cup are being played Saturday afternoon or Saturday evening.
One of the ties is even carried out as just one match, as IK Sävehof and ZTR Zaporozhye are deciding their internal affair in one meeting on neutral ground due to the situation in Ukraine.
Thursday evening Tongeren made sure to finish on the first place in the Belgian league through a 19:18 win against KV Sasja. Saturday night they will be facing a considerably tougher challenge, when they have to try and catch up with Pulawy's nine goal lead from the first leg of the two teams' quarter-final tie.
Having won 31:22 at home last weekend, it is no exaggeration to say that the Polish visitors have the upper hand before the return match in Eburons Dome in Tongeren.
No matter which team is triumphant Saturday night, though, it will be the first time they qualify for a European semi-final.
Being six goals up after the first match, Cocks from the Finnish town Riihimäki will be entering the Zorka in Sabac Saturday evening with an obvious advantage.
And that advantage is made even bigger by the low score in the first match which means that the Serbian home team will probably have to win by at least seven goals in order to reach the semi-final.
Cocks' self-confidence may have been shaken a bit by a surprisingly big 34:25 defeat to HC West in the Finnish league Wednesday.
However, head coach Kaj Kekki is not alarmed.
“Our dress rehearsal was not the best possible, but we had to keep some players out of the Wednesday game to save them for Saturday.
“We know that it will be tough down there, but we have tried to prepare as well as we can. The last couple of weeks parts of our training have been accompanied by extreme noise from loudspeakers with recordings of soccer fans in order to prepare of the pressure”, Kaj Kekki told eurohandball.com.
With only three goals separating the two teams after the first leg, this match seems like the most open among the second leg matches this Saturday.
Of course, Odorhei have a small advantage, as they are three goals up after all, but it will not take a lot to change that in the Associacao Atlética in Águas Santas, before the Portuguese hosts are ready for their first semi-final in a European tournament ever.
Odorhei will also be European semi-final debutants if they go through.
Neither team has a lead to defend or a deficit to catch up with, when Sävehof and ZTR meet Saturday evening.
There has been no first leg, and there will be no second leg either. Everyting will be deciced in this one match in Klaipeda.
Due to the security situation in Ukraine it has been decided to play this tie as just one match on neutral ground.
It will be two coaches with a lot of respect for each others' team who meet Saturday.
“It is a bit peculiar to have everything decided in just one match, but we are looking forward to the challenge. There is no doubt that we will be up against a physically strong team with many good handball players, but if I did not believe we can win, I should have another job,” Sävehof coach Magnus Johansson told eurohandball.com. And his adversary, Arturas Yushkenas from ZTR is just as respectful.
“We are meeting the most unwanted opponent, IK Sävehof which played in the VELUX EHF Champions League last season. Our rival has great experience, but we are cheerful. If we can overcome them, then we can win the title,” Yushkenas said.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / br
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