ROUND PREVIEW: Crunch time is approaching in the group phase of the Men's EHF Cup as three big matches of the Round 5 will be shown on ehfTV
German trio and Danish duo set to clinch quarter-finals
With two match days left, no team can feel completely sure to qualify for the quarter-finals yet, but that will change this coming weekend, when the fifth round is launching in the group phase of the Men's EHF Cup.
In three of the four groups are number one and number two meeting this weekend. In Group A, number one, Gorenje Velenje are receiving number two, HSV Hamburg, and the same is the case in Group B, where Team Tvis Holstebro are taking on Fraikin BM. Granollers, while number one in Group D, MT Melsungen are visiting second placed Eskilstuna Guif.
Men's EHF Cup Group Phase, Round 5
Pfadi Winterthur (SUI) vs Haslum Handballklubb (NOR)
With only two points, both teams are close to being out of the race for the quarter-final tickets, and even the possible winner of the Saturday night game in the Eulachalle in Winterthur will have trouble keeping their hopes to join the last eight intact.
So far Winterthur are without a win at home and will probably try to change that in their last home game in the group phase, while Haslum, on the other hand, have not got a single points away that.
The Norwegian team's only win so far in the group phase has been their remarkable 34:32 win at home against Hamburg, but that win will be worth nothing to them in case of a loss in Switzerland.
Both teams are on six points after their first four matches, but as Hamburg won the first match against Velenje 33:28 at home, the VELUX EHF Champions League winners from 2013 will be sure to win the group and qualify for the quarter-finals in case of a further win in the Rdeca Dvorana in Velenje on Saturday night.
A win for Velenje will not bring the Slovenian team that far, but will still take them very close to the quarter-finals.
Team Tvis Holstebro (DEN) vs Fraikin BM. Granollers (ESP)
Both teams had their leads, as Granollers and Holstebro met in Spain on the first match day of the group phase.
Holstebro had the biggest lead, being five goals ahead, but without being able to get more than a 28:28 draw out of their efforts at the end. That draw is the only point, the Danish team has lost so far, though, and they are receiving second place Granollers with a two point-lead.
This obviously means that a win for Team Tvis Holsterbro will make them group winners and quarter-finalists already before the last match day.
St. Petersburg HC (RUS) vs HCM Constanta (ROU)
After their narrow 28:27 win at home against Granollers, Constanta got on three points, and the Romanian champions may still hope for the quarter-final, but that will take a win in Russia on Monday evening as the first condition.
St. Petersburg still have a theoretical chance to finish second, but as they cannot reach more than five points, this may not even be enough to qualify for the quarter-final, if the EHF Cup Finals organisers Füchse Berlin qualify for the Finals which will mean that one of the second placed teams will be out.
Skjern Handbold (DEN) vs HC Vojvodina (SRB)
Through their 29:24 defeat away against Füchse, Skjern lost the first place in the group, but the Danish team is still on a steady course towards the quarter-finals, and Vojvodina should not be an obstacle in Holstebro on Saturday night.
The Serbian champions did put Skjern under quite heavy pressure on home court on the first match day, before Skjern managed to win 25:23, but Vojvodina are usually far from being as strong away as in front of their enthusiastic home crowd, and being the only team in the group phase with zero points, their chances to proceed in the tournament are long gone.
Even a tough week with a match in the Danish Cup on Tuesday and a league match Thursday should mean no trouble for Skjern Saturday.
A win for Füchse will practically qualify them directly for the EHF Cup Finals, of which they are the organisers, and which are going to take place in the very same venue which is hosting the Sunday match – the Max-Schmeling-Halle.
In case of two further points, the Bundesliga side will be very close to the group win and at least sure of the second place with enough points to not being the poorest number two in the group phase and to avoid quarter-finals.
As late as Thursday night, Füchse lost as big as 32:18 to THW Kiel in the Bundesliga, but Sunday they are meeting a team of not exactly the same caliber.
Having won the away game against the Portuguese 26:20 – despite some starting trouble – Füchse are naturally big favourites in the home game against a Portuguese team who are fighting for the absolutely last chance for a quarter-final berth.
Eskilstuna Guif (SWE) vs MT Melsungen (GER)
Being the only team in the group phase still with maximum points, Melsungen can make their quarter-final berth as well as the group win perfect with just a draw in Sweden Saturday afternoon. Naturally, Melsungen coach Michael Roth is aware of this.
“Now we can make everything clear with regards to the quarter-final against the Swedes this weekend, so that we can play mentally free in our last group match,” Michael Roth told Melsungen's official website.
To Eskilstuna, it is mainly a question of holding on to the second place and try to get enough points to not ending up as the second placed team with fewest points, risking not to qualify for the quarter-finals after all.
RK Nexe (CRO) vs Balatonfüredi KSE (HUN)
Nexe's quarter-final hopes got under fire through a nine-goal away defeat to Eskilstuna last weekend, and a home wing against Balatonfüredi on Saturday evening will be absolutely necessary in order to keep just a theoretical quarter-final chance alive.
However, as Nexe won 31:19, when the two teams met in Hungary, and as Balatonfüredi have lost their chance to proceed in the tournament, having only one point, Nexe are, of course, huge favourites on home court.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / br
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