ROUND PREVIEW– The third round in the Men's EHF Cup Group Phase gets off to an early start with a top game in Group 1 on Wednesday.
Undefeated teams to open round three
The third round in the Men's EHF Cup Group Phase throws off with a top match between undefeated teams Füchse Berlin and GOG on Wednesday, while there are a host of other exciting matches on the weekend.
Five teams, Saint-Raphael Var Handball, RD Riko Ribnica, Futebol Clube do Porto, Maccabi CASTRO Tel Aviv and Cocks, are looking to win their first points in the Group Phase this weekend.
Füchse Berlin (GER) vs GOG (DEN)
The third round of the group phase starts with a genuine top match, as 2015 winners Füchse host the Danish side GOG.
Both teams have won their first two matches in the group phase, so the winner in the Max-Schmeling-Halle will take a decisive step towards the quarter-final.
The GOG defence will be well advised to keep an extra eye on their fellow countryman Hans Lindberg. Lindberg plays right wing for Füchse, and scored no less than 13 goals on 13 attempts last weekend, as his team won 28:24 away against Frisch Auf Göppingen in the Bundesliga.
RD Riko Ribnica (SLO) vs Saint-Raphael Var Handball (FRA)
Both Rubnica and Saint-Raphael are still chasing their first points in the group phase.
Ribnica were able to keep pace with their opponents Füchse and GOG for quite a long way in their first two matches, but in the end, the EHF Cup debutants were defeated on both occasions.
For Saint-Raphael, the EHF Cup has definitely not taken the course they were dreaming of. Having the quarter-final as their objective, the French side cannot be content after two successive defeats. These defeats have put them under heavy pressure moving forward.
The loser in Ljubljana on Sunday will be close to an exit from the EHF Cup.
Futebol Clube do Porto (POR) vs Fraikin BM. Granollers (ESP)
Porto have not had an encouraging start to their first EHF Cup phase. In both of their first matches against HC Midtjylland and Frisch Auf Göppingen, they left the court as losers despite being in the lead for large periods of time.This is a must win game for the Portuguese side, if they want to play any part in this group.
Granollers, who reached the Final last season, have had a mixed start to their group phase campaign. In their opening match, they started by leading 6:0 away against defending EHF Cup winners Frisch Auf Göppingen, only to lose 29:28 in the end. At home against Midtjylland, they were trailing for a long time, even up to four goals, but managed to take a 34:32 win.
However, if Granollers want to match their achievement from last season and reach the Final, they will probably need to get a point or two out of this trip to Portugal.
HC Midtjylland (DEN) vs Frisch Auf Göppingen (GER)
The EHF Cup debutants from Denmark are on two points, but they could have been on four. Having overcome Porto 29:26 in their opening match to the group phase, Midtjylland were leading by four goals way into the second half of their away game against Granollers, only to suffer a 34:32 defeat in the end.
They may be in for their toughest task so far in their European campaign, when the ruling champions visit Messecenter Herning.
As organisers of the Final, Göppingen have the extra motivation to do well, as they can skip the quarter-final and proceed directly to the Final on home ground, if they win the group, or at least finish among the three best second place teams in the group phase.
Having won their first two group matches, the Bundesliga side will take a decisive step in that direction if they win in Herning.
Maccabi CASTRO Tel Aviv (ISR) vs SC Magdeburg (GER)
Maccabi Tel Aviv have the honour of being the first club ever to represent Israel in an EHF Cup Group Phase, but so far, the Israeli champions have not won any points.
Having lost 27:24 away to Grundfos Tatabanya and 31:25 at home against KIF Kolding Kobenhavn, Maccabi still find themselves on zero points, with frail hope to go on after the group phase.
The situation is completely different for Magdeburg, who opened their group phase campaign with a 23:23 draw in Kolding and went on to take a 30:25 win at home against Tatabanya.
Having three points already, Magdeburg will take a huge step towards the quarter-final, if they win this early Saturday afternoon game in the Sports Arena “Drive-in” in Tel Aviv.
Grundfos Tatabanya (HUN) vs KIF Kolding Kobenhavn (DEN)
With Tatabanya on two points and KIF on three, this is crucial match for both teams with regards to boosting their quarter-final hopes.
While the Danish visitors are still undefeated, Tatabanya suffered their first defeat last weekend by losing 30:25 in Magdeburg.
As per usual in these European matches, Tatabanya have to leave their normal home ground to play in the Audi Arena of Györ, usually the venue of Györi Audi ETO KC's home games in the Women's EHF Champions League and the Hungarian league.
If Tatabanya can get the same support from the stands as the women of Györ normally get, KIF will be in for a tough afternoon.
Cocks (FIN) vs S. L. Benfica (POR)
Both teams are debutants in the group phase, and they can look back on encouraging performances in their recent EHF Cup matches.
Benfica came back from a 10 goal deficit at half-time to defeat Helvetia Anaitasuna 33:28. On the other hand, Cocks were close to taking a point from group leaders Melsungen. In the end, however, the Finnish champions lost the close game 29:28.
Cocks, who are still on zero points, desperately need to win this match. However, both teams have try to get as many points as possible, as not even second place may be enough to reach the quarter-final.
If the organisers of the Final, Frisch Auf Göppingen, finish on top of their group or among the three best second placed teams, the German team will proceed directly to the Final. This will mean that the poorest ranked team in second place in their group will be out of the tournament.
Helvetia Anaitasuna (ESP) vs MT Melsungen (GER)
After their clear 30:24 opening win against Cocks, Anaitasuna experienced a set-back as they lost 33:28 away against Benfica.
Saturday night, they will be put to another tough test, when they will be visted by undefeated Melsungen.
Melsungen, who are celebrating their second EHF Cup Group Phase campaign, had a convincing start by defeating Benfica no less than 10 goals, 32:22.
However, their performance in their second group match was less convincing, as they were on the edge of a defeat in Finland. Only a very late goal from Momir Rnic earned them a narrow 29:28 victory.
Still, a further win in Pamplona on Saturday will bring them closer to the quarter-final.
TEXT: Peter Bruun/kc
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