ROUND PREVIEW: Three debutants in this season’s EHF Cup Group Phase won their Round 1 matches, but Round 2 is prone to show that nothing comes easy in this top competition
EHF Cup Group Phase debutants put to the test again
Seven teams are debutants in the group phase of the Men´s EHF Cup this season. Three of them, GOG, HC Midtjylland and Grundfos Tatabanbya KC won their Round 1 matches last weekend.
On the other hand, RD Riko Ribnica, Maccabi CASTRO Tel Aviv, S.L. Benfica and Cocks already learned the hardship of the competition and will be chasing their maiden win this weekend.
And here is what you should keep in mind as well
GOG celebrated their European Cup comeback after seven years of absence with a surprising 36:32 win in France against Saint-Raphael Var Handball last week, while Ribnica put 2015 EHF Cup winners Füchse Berlin under pressure for a long time on home court before eventually losing 25:20.
On Saturday evening the two teams meet in the GOG Arena, with both of them having suffered defeats in their domestic leagues during the week.
GOG lost 37:34 against table leaders Aalborg Handball, Ribnica lost 29:28 to Koper.
Füchse Berlin (GER) vs Saint-Raphael Var Handball (FRA), Sunday 19 February, 19:00 local time
Two ambitious teams will meet in the Max-Schmeling-Halle in Berlin on Sunday evening.
In 2015, Füchse won the tournament in the same venue where Sunday’ match is being played, but last season they did not even make it to the group phase.
The German Bundesliga side started their group phase campaign with a 25:20 away win against Ribnica.
Saint-Raphael reached the quarter-finals last year and are dreaming of going a step further this season.
However, their dreams suffered a setback last Sunday when they lost 36:32 at home to GOG.
On Wednesday they drew 29:29 away against Aix in the Lidl Starligue, while Füchse Berlin lost 30:29 at home to Bergischer HC.
Granollers, who reached the EHF Cup Finals last season, almost stunned defending champions Frisch Auf Göppingen in the first group match last Sunday.
They led 6:0, but eventually went down 29:28 and will now be looking for redemption when they face HC Midtjylland on Sunday.
However, the Danish team is likely to be anything else than an easy opponent for Granollers.
In their first EHF Cup Group Phase match in the club’s history, Midtjylland won 29:26 at home against Porto.
Granoller’s defence will be well advised to keep an eye in particular on the visitors’ right and left back.
Eivind Tangen and Espen Lie Hansen were both part of the Norwegian team who won the silver medal at the World Championship in France last month, and Hansen was on fire against Porto, scoring eight goals.
Futebol Clube de Porto (POR) vs Frisch Auf Göppingen (GER), Sunday 19 February, 19:30 local time (live on ehfTV.com)
Last season, the group phase marked the end to Porto’s European adventure.
This season the Portuguese side got off to a disappointing start in their efforts to make it a step further, losing 29:26 against HC Midtjylland.
Ruling EHF Cup winners Frisch Auf Göppingen were on the edge of defeat, being six goals down at home against Granollers but eventually won 29:28.
They were not that fortunate though in their most recent Bundesliga match, losing 33:32 away to fellow EHF Cup participants SC Magdeburg mid-week.
This early Saturday afternoon match in the Sports Arena “Drive-in” in Tel Aviv will be a historic event.
For the first time an Israeli handball team will play an EHF Cup Group Phase match at home.
The group phase debutants are likely to be put to the test in their first home game.
Even though KIF Kolding Kobenhavn are currently only ranked in middle of the Danish league, they earned a draw at home against SC Magdeburg in their first group match, while Tel Aviv lost 27:24 in Hungary against Grundfos Tatabanya KC.
SC Magdeburg (GER) vs Grundfos Tatabanya KC (HUN), Sunday 19 February, 17:00 local time
SC Magdeburg probably expected to get more than a draw against Kolding in their first group match this season, but 23:23 was the eventual outcome.
On late Sunday afternoon they will face group phase debutants Tatanabya who won 27:24 at home against another debutant, Maccabi CASTRO Tel Aviv, in their opening match.
Both teams booked wins in their respective domestic leagues over the week.
Magdeburg won 33:32 against Frisch Auf Göppingen, while Tatabanya won their home game 26:22 against Oroshazi.
S.L. Benfica certainly did not enjoy the best possible debut to a European group phase.
They were never even close to winning away against MT Melsungen last week and lost 32:22 after all.
On Saturday they get the chance to revenge their poor start when they host Anaitasuna who have reached the EHF Cup Group Phase for the second time.
Two years ago their campaign ended in the group phase.
Their first attempt to make it better this time was successful as their home game against Cocks ended in a 30:24 win.
Cocks (FIN) vs MT Melsungen (GER), Sunday 19 February, 15:00 local time (live on ehfTV.com)
Just like Israeli side Maccabi CASTRO Tel Aviv in Group C, Cocks will be writing history on Sunday afternoon.
For the first time, an EHF Cup Group Phase match is taking place in Finland when Melsungen visit the Elenia Arena.
The two teams got off to a very different start in Group D.
While Cocks lost 30:24 away to Anaitasuna, Melsungen won 32:22 at home against Benfica.
The German Bundesliga team also had a fine last test before flying to Finland, winning 30:22 at home against Balingen.
Cocks, who are leading the Finnish league, also gathered self-confidence during the week, winning 43:29 at home against ÅIFK.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / ts
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