ROUND PREVIEW: Two teams can win their group in the Men's EHF Cup this weekend already.
Silkeborg and Chambery chasing group win
If Bjerringbro-Silkeborg manage to win away against Saint-Raphael Var Handball in Group C, the Danish team will already be sure to win the group with one match day left.
Even a draw will be enough for Chambery Savoie Handball, who visit Ystads IF in Group D, while SC Magdeburg can book their quarter-final ticket with an away win against Aalborg Handball in Group A, and Frisch Auf Göppingen need a home win against Team Tvis Holstebro in order to keep their quarter-final chances alive.
Four matches of the culminating group phase will be on offer on www.ehfTV.com live.
Magdeburg can secure their quarter-final berth with a win against Aalborg who have nothing at stake. However, it has caused some caution in Magdeburg to see that Sander Sagosen is back for Aalborg.
The Norwegian international has returned from his hand injury too late, when it comes to Aalborg's chances to proceed in the tournament. The Danish team lost their last quarter-final hope with the 28:25 defeat to Dinamo Bucuresti in the previous round.
However, Sagosen may still hurt Magdeburg's quarter-final dreams.
“Aalborg play completely differently with Sagosen in the team. Almost all their attacking play goes through him,” as Magdeburg's experienced back court player Michael Haas put it, while former Aalborg line player Jacob Bagersted promise to “give 110% to defeat my former club.”
If Magdeburg manage to win in Aalborg on Saturday, the loser of this match will be out of the race for the quarter-finals.
Those are the merciless facts before the two teams meet in Bucuresti on Sunday at noon.
However, when they enter the court, they will obviously know the result from Denmark and thereby, they will also be aware what is at stake. Their first meeting in Spain turned out quite remarkably.
Granollers were leading 17:7 and 18:8 in the first half, but Dinamo came back and led once in the match. This was at the final result, 29:28 in favour of the Romanian team.
After that shocking defeat, Granollers have made a fine comeback in the tournament, though, with the 34:29 win at home against Magdeburg in the previous round as their finest achievement so far.
A 29:23 win away against Ribe-Esbjerg on Wednesday night made Team Tvis Holstebro sure to win the Danish league with one match day left.
This means that Holstebro can focus entirely on the EHF Cup and the away game against Göppingen who need a win in order to stay in the three team dram with Nantes and Holstebro for the two top positions in the group.
Therefore, Göppingen will not only be seeking revenge for the 34:31 in Denmark on the first match day of the group phase.
The Bundesliga team will simply be out of the competition in case of another defeat, while a draw might be enough for Holstebro to reach the quarter-final for the second year in a row.
“Of course, it will be difficult in Germany, but I see an advantage for us in our fast way of playing, which is a bit of a contrast to the often more stationary and physical way, the games in the Bundesliga are being played,” Holstebro coach Patrick Westerholm tells eurohandball.com.
“I really do hope that we can decide things Saturday evening.
“If we lose in Göppingen, we may have to win big against Nantes at home in our last match, and I would very much like to avoid that scenario,” adds Westerholm.
HBC Nantes (FRA) vs OCI-LIONS (NED)
In case of a home win, Nantes will be almost sure to qualify directly for the Finals.
As organiser of the EHF Cup Finals, Nantes will proceed directly to this stage, if they either win the group or finish among the three best second place teams in the group phase.
With a home win against the Dutch champions, Nantes will be on eight points, and a lot of things will have to go wrong, if this is not enough to qualify the French side for the Finals on their home ground.
And Nantes are obvious favourites in the Salle Sportive de la Trodadiere on Sunday evening, not least as their opponents are the only team in the entire group phase who have not got a single point in the competition yet.
A win in France Saturday night will secure Silkeborg the group win even with one match day left.
Not even a win for SKA Minsk away against Pfadi Winterthur in the other match in the group this weekend will be able to threaten the Danish team's position, as Silkeborg are the better team in the internal matches against Minsk.
Saint-Raphael, current number two in the French league, can take over the first place in the group in case of a win, and at the same time, Saint-Raphael will revenge the 31:26 defeat in Silkeborg in the first match.
Saint-Raphael's chances are boosted by severe injury problems by Silkeborg.
Back court players Nikolaj Markussen and Nikolaj Øris Nielsen as well as line player Michael V. Knudsen and defence specialist Peter Pucelj are more or less doubtful for the match.
“I do expect Markussen and Knudsen to play, though, and this will actually mean that we will be sending on the same team as we defeated Saint-Raphael with in the first match.
“We have two match points to secure our quarter-final berth, but we will do all we can to take in the first attempt, as a win in Saint Raphael will also give us the group win,” Silkeborg coach Peter Bredsdorff-Larsen tells eurohandball.com.
Pfadi Winterthur (SUI) vs SKA Minsk (BLR)
Pfadi Winterthur have no chance to reach the quarter-final anymore, but according to the club's website, the players are determined to say a decent goodbye to the EHF Cup in front of their own spectators.
Minsk brought their quarter-final hopes back to life with their 28:25 win at home against Bjerrinbro-Silkeborg, but the Belarusian side are still in desperate need of a win in the Euleachhalle in Winterthur in order to stay in the race with Silkeborg and Saint-Raphael for the quarter-final tickets.
A win for Minsk in Switzerland will put them in a favourable position for the home game against Saint-Raphael on the last match day, though.
A win or a draw for Chambery in the Ystad Arena will be enough for Chambery to secure the group win no matter how their last match at home against CSM Bucuresti turns out.
A win for Ystad will mean that the Swedish team finish at least second in the group with seven points, but even that may not be enough for a quarter-final berth.
If Nantes proceed directly to the final tournament, the poorest second-placed team in the group phase will not reach the quarter-finals, and in this respect, seven points may not be enough, and Ystad may there need further points in the last match away against Anaitasuna on top of a possible win against Chambery.
However, Ystad's possibly most prominent player, right back Kim Andersson is confident.
“So far, we have our destiny in our own hands, and I am actually quite impressed by what we have achieved as debutants in the tournament and even suffering from numerous injury problems.
“I actually think we should have had one point more, as I find we lost one in Romania (27:27 against CSM Bucuresti) but now we can almost decide everything at home against Chambery,” Kim Andersson told eurohandball.com.
CSM Bucuresti (ROU) vs Helvetia Antaisuna (ESP)
When the two teams enter the court, they will know if they still have anything for play for at all.
In case of an Ystad win against Chambery earlier Saturday afternoon, both teams will be without a chance to reach the quarter-finals, as they are both on two points.
To CSM's Spanish right back, Javier Humet, playing against a team from his home country is obviously a special experience, and he chooses to focus on the positive aspect, hoping that there will still be something at stake, when the match starts.
“It is going to be a hard game for us. Helvetia have proved that they have a good team, and they have well everywhere they have played, not only on their home court.
“They also played very well in Chambery and in Ystad, but we really want to win this game, for ourselves and for our spectators,” Humet tells eurohandball.com.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / br
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