ROUND PREVIEW – After this weekend, all teams in the respective groups of the Men´s EHF Cup will have met each other once
First half of the group phase coming to an end
When the matches in the Men's EHF Cup Group Phase this weekend are over, the first half of the group phase will be over and all teams in the groups will have met each other once.
Ahead of the third match day, only three teams still have maximum points.
This goes for SC Magdeburg, who receive Fraikin BM. Granollers in Group A on Saturday for the first time in 39 years, HBC Nantes will visit Frisch Auf Göppingen on Saturday night and Bjerringbro-Silkeborg, who take on SKA Minsk on Saturday evening, in a match which will be live on ehftv.com.
Aalborg Handball (DEN) vs Dinamo Bucuresti (ROU)
The previous two years, Aalborg managed to go on from the group phase in the VELUX EHF Champions League.
If the Danish club are going to copy that achievement in the EHF Cup, they need to get some points soon.
Their first two group matches have ended with six-goal defeats.
First, Aalborg lost 25:19 away to Magdeburg, then 31:25 at home against Granollers.
However, the Danish team are in for no easy task against Dinamo, who have got two points in the tournament so far.
The Romanian team started their group phase campaign by winning 29:28 away against Granollers despite being 10 goals down along the way.
In their second match, Dinamo lost narrowly 34:33 against Magdeburg after leading large parts of the way.
Aalborg's injury problems have increased ahead of the meeting with Dinamo.
Apart from Norwegian playmaker Sander Sagosen, the Swedish goalkeeper Andreas Palicka is also sidelined.
Palicka has overstretched a muscle in his thigh.
“I feared my season was over, but I am probably only going to be out for a couple of weeks,” he said.
SC Magdeburg (GER) vs Fraikin BM. Granollers (ESP)
It is the first time in 39 years that Magdeburg and Granollers meet in a European competition.
In the 1996-97 season, the two teams met in the quarter-final of the Cup Winners' Cup with two huge Magdeburg wins, 36:18 and 31:22 was the outcome.
Such a big difference is not to be expected in the GETEC Arena in Magdeburg this Saturday but based on the performances in the group this far, the home side still appear as favourites.
Magdeburg have won both their matches, while Granollers got their first points in Denmark last weekend, defeating Aalborg 31:25.
Magdeburg coach Tomas Svensson is not in doubt about the importance of the Saturday match.
“SCM against Magdeburg is a final for the quarter-final berth,” the Swede told SC Magdeburg's website.
Frisch Auf Göppingen (GER) vs HBC Nantes (FRA)
Nantes, organisers of the EHF Cup Finals this season, have got off to a perfect start in the group, with two clear wins.
The French team started by winning 33:26 in the Netherlands against OCI-LIONS and last Sunday, the win became even clearer, as Team Tvis Holstebro were sent home to Denmark with 32:23 defeat.
Göppingen suffered a surprising 34:31 defeat away against Holstebro in their first match and had problems at home against LIONS last Sunday, but won 40:20.
The Bundesliga side may be handicapped in their hunt for two more points though as playmaker Michael Kraus is suffering from a shoulder injury.
Still, Göppingen line player Manuel Späth makes the conditions clear for him and his teammates.
“After the defeat in Denmark in our first match, we cannot afford to lose any more points, if we want to reach the quarter-final,” Späth told handball-world.com.
Team Tvis Holstebro (DEN) vs OCI-Lions (NED)
Holstebro, who reached the Finals in the 2012-13 season, started the group phase this season by upsetting the group with a 34:31 win at home against Frisch Auf Göppingen.
However, the second match became some kind of an anticlimax for the current number one in the Danish league who lost as clearly as 32:23 away against Nantes.
On Sunday, however, there is no doubt that Holstebro are favourites and they probably have to live up to this in order to go on hoping for the quarter-finals.
So far, the Dutch champions OCI-LIONS have suffered two clear defeats, 33:26 at home against Nantes and no less than 40:20 away to Göppingen.
Team Tvis Holstebro will be missing their Swedish playmaker Jonas Larholm, who is out for the season after shoulder surgery and head coach Patrick Westerholm is cautious.
“The LIONS are practicing a 3-3 formation in their defence and this will result in more duels than we are used to,” said Westerholm.
Bjerringbro-Silkeborg (DEN) vs SKA Minsk (BLR)
Being one out of only three teams in the group phase who have won their first two matches, Silkeborg appear as favourites at home against Minsk who have a win and a defeat in the group phase so far.
Silkeborg started out by winning 31:26 at home against Saint-Raphael before winning 28:25 against Pfadi Winterthur in some kind of a thriller in Switzerland.
Left wing for Silkeborg, Stefan Hundstrup, is well aware of the importance of the Saturday match in Jysk Arena.
“It is crucial to us to take all the points we can get.
“We have proved that we can play a part in this competition and we are well on our way with the first two wins,” Hundstrup told Bjerringbro-Silkeborg's website.
Saint-Raphael Var Handball (FRA) vs Pfadi Winterhur (SUI)
Saint-Raphael got their first win in the group stage, as they defeated SKA Minsk narrowly 31:29 at home last Sunday.
There is no doubt that the French team will need another home win in the race for the quarter-finals, also bearing in mind that if Final organisers Nantes qualify directly for the Finals, the second place may not even be enough to proceed.
However, the visitors in the Palais des Sports JF Krakowski are under even heavier pressure than the hosts.
Having lost 31:27 away against Minsk and 28:25 at home to Bjerringbro-Silkeborg, Pfadi Winterthur can hardly afford another defeat, if there is to be any realistic hope left for a quarter-final berth.
CSM Bucuresti (ROU) vs Ystads IF (SWE)
Having only got one point so far, CSM are under the heaviest pressure of the two teams who meet in the Romanian capital on early Saturday afternoon.
CSM opened their group phase campaign with a clear 28:22 defeat away against Helvetia Anaitasuna but got a 25:25 draw at home against Chambery Savoie Handball in their second match, in which they reached out for the win several times.
Just like CSM, Ystad have also met Anaitasuna but with more success.
On home court, the team from Southern Sweden won 31:31.
This result compensated to a certain extent for Ystad's big opening defeat, 32:22 in France, to Chambery.
The winner on Saturday will have a good chance to proceed to the quarter-final.
Helvetia Anaitasuna (ESP) vs Chambery Savoie Handball (FRA)
With three points in their first two group matches, Chambery is one out of only four undefeated teams in the tournament.
However, the French side was close to suffering the first defeat, as they drew 25:25 in Romania against CSM Bucuresti last Saturday.
Therefore, it still remains to be seen how good Chambery actually are on away ground in the group phase and Anaitasuna may be quite a big challenge, as the Spanish team won their only home match so far as clearly as 28:22 exactly against CSM.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / ec
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