ROUND PREVIEW: The Men’s EHF Cup starts this weekend when 24 teams play the first leg of Qualification Round 1 and there is no shortage of intriguing match-ups
Round 1 headlined by national derbies and ambitious Swedes
The 2014/15 edition the Men´s EHF Cup starts this weekend, as 24 teams meet in the first leg of Qualification Round 1. There are in fact 34 teams involved in the first round, but five of the 17 ties will have both legs played next weekend.
The 17 aggregate winners will proceed to Qualification Round 2, where 23 further teams will join them.
It is the third year that the EHF Cup is being played in this format and, just like last season, a new champion will have to be found at the EHF Cup Finals in May next year, as champions Pick Szeged are in the group phase of the VELUX EHF Champions League this season.
The action begins on Friday night with Austrian side Bregenz Handball welcoming HC Dragunas Klaipeda from Lithuania meet for a doubleheader, just down the road from local rivals Hard, who play host to Champions League qualification at the same time.
Kristianstad with another try
One of Sweden’s most ambitious clubs and the team with the largest attendances, IFK Kristianstad, reached the group phase of the EHF Cup last season and will be keen to build upon that adventure this season.
Kristianstad, who still have 36-year-old former Swedish international and Flensburg keeper Dan Beutler in goal, have signed one of the greatest talents in Norwegian handball in playmaker Christian O´Sullivan, who has joined from Norwegian league club Bækkelaget.
In their first attempt to do better than last year, Kristianstad fly to Greece to meet A. C. Diomidis Argous, a side which exited the competition in Round 2 last season.
Another of last season’s Group Phase participants, HC Sporta Hlohovec, will have to wade their way through all three rounds of qualification and their first hurdle will be Bursa Nilüfer BK.
The Turkish side will be visiting the Sportova Hala Na Zabrani in Slovakia on Saturday evening for the first leg.
Many European handball fans may still remember Handball Esch, the side which reached the Challenge Cup final in 2013.
This year, Handball Esch will start their hunt for success in a local derby against another team from Luxembourg. On Saturday night, they will be visiting Handball Kaerjeng for the first leg of a tie, which the teams must be expected to know everything there is to know about one another. The same goes for the other derby in this round, the all-Croatian duel between RK Dubrava and GRK Varazdin.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / cor
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