ROUND PREVIEW: The 16 teams for the group phase of the Men's EHF Cup to be found this weekend.
Final sorting out for the group phase
It is the final race for the 16 positions in the group phase in the Men's EHF Cup this weekend, as the second leg of Qualification Round 3 is taking place. Close encounters are to be expected several places all over Europe, and one of those may already be seen Friday evening, as St. Petersburg HC are receiving Grundfos Tatabanya HC.
In the first match at home in Hungary, Tatanbanya only won by one, 23:22, so the Russian hosts and former VELUX EHF Champions League participants seem to have a good chance in the Arena St. Petersburg.
St. Petersburg and Tatabanya have never been in the EHF Cup group phase, and neither have MT Melsungen. In fact, the German Bundesliga team are having their first go at a European competition this season, and so far, that adventure has been successful. When Melsungen visit Tatran Presov in the City Hall Presov Saturday evening, they are defending a seven goal lead after their 31:24 at home on the Rothenbach-Halle in Kassel on Saturday.
According to Tatran coach Peter David will his team need nothing less than a miracle to proceed to the main round now. “We will simply try to make a miracle come true. There is no point in talking about anything less,” Peter David told Melsungen's website.
Melsungen coach Michael Roth is understandably confident on behalf of his team before going to Slovakia for the second leg.
“We can travel to the return match with confidence. We know that we are in for a tough match there, though. It will be a question of strength,” said Roth.
HBC Nantes and Füchse Berlin have both been in the EHF Cup Finals. Nantes in the 2012/13 season and Füchse last season, when Nantes reached the quarter-finals.
This year, one of the teams will not even make it to the group phase, as they are meeting in this round. So far, the Foxes from the German capital seem to have the best chances, as they won the first match at home 23:18.
There is no doubt that Nantes will have to score considerably more goals against Füchse's German national team goalkeeper Silvio Heinevetter, when the two team meet again Saturday night in the Palais des Sports de Beaulieu, if the French top team are to have a chance of another go at the group phase.
Holstebro finished third in the EHF Cup two years ago, and their head coach Klavs Bruun Jørgensen still believes in a group phase berth, although he was not happy with his team's performance in the 32:27 home win on Saturday.
“There is a lot more in us than we managed to show in the first match, and furthermore, we learned a lot more about our opponents. However, we also know what it is like in those away matches. Three fast goals on counter attacks, and you may be out,” Klavs Bruun Jørgensen told his club's website before the trip to Romania for the return match.
Haslum Handballklubb were leading for great parts of the away match against HC Kaustik Volgograd before losing 31:28 at the end. The good performance in Russia and the narrow deficit causes optimism by the Norwegian champions ahead of the return match in Nadderudhallen Saturday afternoon.
“We played well for 50 minutes in the first match before running out of power. The chances of reaching the group phase are probably 50 per cent, but with a good performance Saturday, the chance is definitely there,” Haslum coach Tom-Eirik Skarpsno said.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / br
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