ROUND PREVIEW: The Danish club has never been that far in the European club competitions like this season. In the Women's EHF Cup semi-final they face Fehérvár, while Astrakhanochka and Lada are vying for a Russian ticket to the final.
New experience for Esbjerg and all-Russian battle
One Danish-Hungarian duel and one entirely Russian encounter will be seen this weekend, when the first leg of the Women's EHF Cup semi-finals launches.
Danish Team Esbjerg, who have never been this far in Europe before, will be receiving Hungarian Fehérvár KC, while the two Russian teams Astrakhanochka and Lada will be deciding the first leg of their all Russian tie.
Team Esbjerg (DEN) vs Fehérvár KC (HUN)
For Team Esbjerg, being in a European semi-final is a completely new experience, as the Danish team has never been this far in a European competition before.
Their finest achievement before this season was reaching the quarter-final of the EHF Cup in the 2010/11 season.
However, the team from Denmark's fifth largest city have no intention to stop at the semis.
“As I said after we have eliminated Volgograd in the quarter-final, I think they were the strongest team left in the tournament, and that is still my opinion. I do not see Fehérvár being at the same level. They have a good team, they play a fast and lively kind of handball, and they are good at running home also, but they are a team we should be able to defeat over two matches,” head coach Lars Frederiksen told eurohandball.com.
Actually, the encounter will be a meeting between two Scandinavian coaches, as Fehérvár are being coached by the Norwegian Pål Oldrup Jensen.
“It will be interesting and challenging to play against Esbjerg with (the Norwegian goalkeepers) Kari (Aalvik Grimsbø) and Emily (Stang Sando) in the team. Of course, it will be a bit peculiar to play the EHF Cup against one of my former players in (Norwegian) Flint (Sando),” Pål Oldrup Jensen told the Norwegian Handball Federation's website.
It will be two Russian teams with a long European history who meet in the first leg of this all-Russian semi-final tie Sunday afternoon in the Sportcomplex “Zvezdniy” in Astrakhan.
While both teams have appeared in various European competitions many times, though, they have not had the same number of success experiences.
Although Astrakhan are in a European Cup competition for the eighth time, they have never made it as far as they have this season – to the semi-finals.
The quarter-final in the Cup Winners' Cup in the 2006/07 season and the quarter-final in the EHF Cup last season were their finest achievements in the past.
Lada have a considerably more prominent history. The club from Togliatti won the 2011/12 EHF Cup and the Cup Winners' Cup in 2001/02.
Furthermore, they reached the final of the 2006/07 Women's EHF Champions League, just to mention their finest results so far.
Lada may still be favourites to reach the EHF Cup final again, but at least they will be facing an opponent who knows the way to the goal.
This week, Astrakhan defeated Izhevsk 45:20 and 45:21 in two matches in placement matches for place five to eight in the Russian play-off, so maybe Lada should watch out.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / br
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