First quarter-finalists to be named in Round 5
With two match days remaining, no team is completely certain of progressing to the quarter-final, but that should change at the weekend after Round 5 of the Women's EHF Cup Group Phase.
The games will take place on Friday through to Sunday; four of which will be streamed live on ehfTV.
• With two match days remaining in the Group Phase, no team has yet to secure a spot in the quarter-final
• Two German teams, HC Leipzig and VfL Oldenburg, remain on zero points and have no chance to progress from the group
• Katarina Krpez Slezak from ERD HC is the competition's top scorer with 36 goals
Randers HK (DEN) vs IK Sävehof (SWE)
Saturday 4 February, 16:00 local time
When the two Scandinavian teams clashed in the opening round of games, Randers' victory in Sweden was quite surprising. Now the regional derby is to take place in Denmark, and if the hosts are victorious they will be through to the next round.
So far, Randers have shown solid performances in the group phase. Following two victories early on, they lost in Nantes but then finished the winning streak of the French side by splitting the points with them at home.
Sävehof had a slow start in the group with two defeats, but then the Swedish team redeemed themselves by grabbing maximum points in two matches against Oldenburg. Now they are behind Randers by just one point, and a possible revenge on Saturday could put them in a good position before the last match day.
Nantes Loire Atlantique HB (FRA) vs VfL Oldenburg (GER)
Saturday 4 February, 16:00 local time, live on ehfTV
Dropping their first point in the group in Randers could be frustrating, but overall an away draw against their closest pursuer was a positive result for Nantes - as the Group A leader took another step towards the quarter-final.
With seven points after four games, Nantes are still unbeaten and highly unlikely to miss a chance to progress to the next round. In fact, even a draw at home against Oldenburg will secure them a spot in the next stage of the competition.
And the German side does not look like a hard obstacle. So far, Oldenburg have been defeated in all four group games and lost even the theoretical chance of going through to the quarter-final.
Alba Fehervar KC (HUN) vs Kuban (RUS)
Saturday 4 February, 17:15 local time, live on ehfTV
The double-header against Brest left a bitter aftertaste for Alba Fehervar. Both times, they missed out on victories in the dying seconds of the games. The match in France last week was particularly disappointing as Fehervar were up 20:14 with just ten minutes to go, but managed to squander their advantage.
Yet following two straight draws, the Hungarian team retain chances for a quarter-final berth, so the game against Kuban will be crucial for both sides. A home win is now essential for the third-placed Fehervar.
Kuban, who faced no problems against HC Leipzig, are behind Brest just on goal difference and have a two-point advantage over their Hungarian rivals, so even a draw may be favourable for them.
Brest Bretagne Handball (FRA) vs HC Leipzig (GER)
Sunday 5 Febuary, 17:00 local time
An impressive comeback in the home game against Alba Fehervar was probably the most emotional moment for Brest in their current EHF Cup campaign. Brest scored just 14 goals for 50 minutes of the game, but had a 7-1 run in the last ten minutes and ultimately earned a draw which felt like a victory.
"It was a matter of courage and abnegation," said the Brest's head coach Laurent Bezeau.
The French side continues to top the group, and now their destiny is basically in their hands. A home victory against Leipzig may suffice to obtain a quarter-final spot.
The German team - weakened by numerous injuries - is yet to claim their first points in the competition. Following four straight defeats, the recent EHF Champions League participants have no chance left to qualify for the next round.
Byasen Trondheim (NOR) vs SG BBM Bietigheim (GER)
Saturday 4 February, 18:00 local time, live on ehfTV
As expected, the Group C proved to be tight and competitive, with all four teams staying in fight for the quarter-final places after four games.
Despite having been regarded as underdogs, Byasen proved to be a force to be reckoned with. The last game was rather an exception as they had no chances in Erd (34:22), yet at home the Norwegian side still boasts a 100 per cent record.
Now they are eager to continue this home run and avenge themselves against Bietigheim for the defeat in the opening round (33:39).
However, the German side also have something to fight for. Unbeaten in Bundesliga, they suffered three straight losses in the EHF Cup and sit bottom of the group, so basically a victory in Trondheim is now a must for them.
ERD HC (HUN) vs Rostov-Don (RUS)
Sunday 5 February, 15:00 local time, live on ehfTV
Similar to Byasen, ERD have so far alternated home wins with away defeats, and the two teams exchanged victories in their recent double-header. Despite leading for much of the game, the Hungarian team failed to claim any points in Trondheim, yet they emphatically took revenge a week later.
However, defeating Rostov will probably be a much more difficult task as the Russian side seems to have found their rhythm under the new head coach Frederic Bougeant even without a number of injured key players.
Two victories against Bietigheim put Rostov on top of the group with six points, yet now they need to claim some points in Hungary in order to strengthen their lead.
TuS Metzingen (GER) vs Glassverket (NOR)
Friday 3 February, 10:00 local time
Metzingen play much better on the road than in Tübingen for their home matches. While the team of Csaba Konkoly obtained two away victories, they lost to both NFH and Lada in Germany.
Now their goal is to finally claim first points at home game against Glassverket.
"After four games, the Norwegian team have gained even more European experience, so they should not be underestimated," said Metzingen's head coach Csaba Konkoly.
Glassverket are Group D outsiders with just two points, yet the two draws against NFH demonstrated that the Norwegian side are quite competitive. Their hopes to earn a quarter-final spot are not yet dead, so getting points in Germany is crucial now.
Handball Club Lada (RUS) vs NFH-Nykobing Falster Handboldklub (DEN)
Saturday 4 February, 16:00 local time, live on ehfTV
Following a home loss against Metzingen, it was essential for Lada to earn points in the reverse fixture in Germany, and the two points taken from the 3,500 km journey significantly improved the team's chances to progress from the group.
"We had no right to make another mistake, and everyone was committed to the fight. In the next game against NFH, we need to increase our tempo and to make as few mistakes as possible.
Only a victory will give us a chance to advance from the group," said Lada's playmaker Elizaveta Malashenko.
But it will be difficult to grab two points from the Danish side which is still unbeaten in the Group Phase. Lada have particularly bad memories about the opening match day in Nykobing where they lost 32:21. After that, NFH beat Metzingen away from home, and despite two draws with Glassverket continue to lead the group.
TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / bc