ROUND PREVIEW: Only the last round will decide about five quarter-finalists in the Men's EHF Cup. Two matches will be broadcast live on ehfTV.com.
Thrillers to be expected in the last round
Several thrillers are to be expected when the last round of the Men's EHF Cup Group Phase launches this weekend.
Only two things are facts already: That Füchse Berlin are proceeding directly to the EHF Cup Finals which the German club is hosting, and that Montpellier Agglomeration HB are sure to qualify for the quarter-finals.
The remaining five teams for the quarter-finals will all be found this weekend, and not even teams who have eight points after the first five matches can feel safe and secure yet. Quite a number of thrillers is to be expected all over Europe.
TSV Hannover-Burgdorf (GER) vs Csurgói KK (HUN)
The hosts have only two objects to play for in the Swiss Life Hall in Hannover Saturday evening: the honour and the chance to avoid finishing last in the group.
For the visitors, much more is at stake.
A win is likely to send Csurgo to the quarter-final. A draw will also be enough if Lugi HF lose against Reale Ademar Leon on Sunday, while a defeat will mean the end of the line for the Hungarian team.
So far, Csurgo have only been able to get their points at home, and they will obviously have to change that pattern away against the injury-hit North German outfit if they want to have a future in the tournament.
When Lugi enter the Palacio de los Deportes de Leon, they will know if they need a point or two in the match in order to reach the quarter-final.
If Csurgo lose away against Hannover-Burgdorf Saturday, Lugi will be sure to win Group A and proceed to the quarter-final even in case of a defeat. A draw in North Germany Saturday evening will mean that Lugi will also need at least a draw, while a win for Csurgo will probably force the Swedish team to win.
“We prepare for a match on life and death. Hannover-Burgdorf are severely hit by injury and will need a tremendous effort to beat Gsurgo,” Lugi coach Tomas Axnér told eurohandball.com.
Ademar Leon have no chance to go on in the tournament any more, and Axnér as a little in doubt as to what that will mean to the match.
“It is hard for me to say if it is an advantage or the opposite that Ademar Leon are already out of the race for the quarter-final, but anyhow we are going all in to win the match. We hope to be able to reinforce our defence with a comeback of Magnus Jernemyr. A quarter-final would really be a boost to our club and to Swedish handball,” Tomas Axnér added.
Skjern Haandbold (DEN) vs HC Zomimak-M (MKD)
Only the honour and the hope to escape the last place in the group are at stake in this match in the Skjern Bank Arena. While Zomimak have lost all their group matches so far, Skjern have only managed to get two points so far – in the first meeting between the two teams which Skjern won 24:23 in FYR Macedonia.
Thus, both teams are long out of the race for the quarter-finals, and the match therefore has very little significance with regards to the standings.
In spite of having been more or less in a league of their own in Group B, Montpellier may actually still lose their first place in the group.
This will be the case, if Sporting manage to win by at least four goals in the Palais des Sport René Bougnol, as Montpellier won 30:27 in Portugal in the first match between the two teams.
While Montpellier still have the group win to play for, the team from Southern France has already qualified for the quarter-finals.
Sporting, on the other hand, may still need at least a draw in order to make sure to also reach the quarter-finals.
“We will have an extremely difficult match against one of the candidates to reach the EHF Cup Finals, and we know we need to work hard to achieve a good result which makes it possible to reach the next round. We have many difficulties, but the Sporting team has proved that we can compete with all clubs,” Sporting coach Frederico Santos told eurohandball.com.
Pick Szeged (HUN) vs IFK Kristianstad (SWE)
Provided Pick Szeged live up to their status as favourites in the Varos Sportcsarnok Saturday afternoon, they will be in the quarter-final as the Hungarian top team only needs one point to be one hundred per cent sure to be among the six quarter-finalists.
Having eight points already, Szeged are almost through, but depending on the other results in the various groups in the last round, a draw may still be needed.
This, at the very least, should be possible, though, against Kristianstad who have outplayed their role in the tournament long ago. The only motivation for the team from the far south of Sweden will be to finish their group phase campaign in style.
“Of course we need one point to qualify, but we always want to win all our matches, and to try and be first in the group. The match against Kristianstad will not be easy, we will have to work well in the defence and to improve our attacking play, Pick Szeged coach Juan Carlos Pastor told eurohandball.com.
Wednesday night Presov booked their 40th successive win in the Slovakian league, as the away game against HK Topolcany was won 33:30.
TATRAN have been considerably less successful in the EHF Cup group phase, where they are without any chance to reach the quarter-finals.
Instead, they can try and block Nantes's chances to proceed, when the French team visits the City Hall of Presov Saturday.
However, it will take quite a substantial TATRAN win to make Nantes stumble, as the visitors have eight points and a plus of 23 goals in goal difference ahead of their trip to Slovakia.
HCM Constanta (ROU) vs Chambéry Savoie Handball (FRA)
It really seems to be showdown at high noon in the Sala Sporturilor in Constanta Sunday. Both teams are on six points, two points adrift of Füchse Berlin who, as organisers, are sure to proceed to the EHF Cup Finals.
Therefore, only the winner can really hope to reach the quarter-finals. The loser will obviously be out, and a draw is not likely to be enough for any of the teams either.
As the two teams' first meeting in France ended in a 29:29 draw, the final score in a possible new draw will decide which team may still have a thin hope to proceed.
Naturally, Chambéry head coach Mario Cavalli is aware that a win will probably be the only acceptable result.
“The most important thing in Constanta will be to win the game and go to the quarter-final. The level between the two teams is equal. We must be concentrated during one hour without losing any easy situation in the attack. The key will be our strong defence, though,” Cavalli told eurohandball.com.
Füchse Berlin (GER) vs HC Sporta Hlohovec (SVK)
These two teams can really take it easy in the Max Schmeling-Halle, as there is absolutely nothing except the honour at stake.
Füchse are already sure to win the group, and as organisers of the EHF Cup Finals, they are also sure to proceed directly to the Finals, while pointless Hlohovec are just as sure to finish last in the group.
Their motivation will be the attempt to erase the zero in the points account.
Find the more detailed description of quarter-finals chances here
TEXT: Peter Bruun / br
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