Last three quarter-final berths at stake
After LIQUI MOLY EHF Cup finals organisers Frisch Auf Göppingen secured their group win last weekend and qualified directly for the finals, it is a fact that there will only be three quarter-finals in the Men's EHF Cup this season.
Füchse Berlin, SC Magdeburg and Grundfos Tatabanya have already occupied three of the spots in the quarter-finals, leaving seven teams to battle for the last three tickets this weekend. Four of the games will be shown live on the ehfTV.com
• Frisch Auf Göppingen are already qualified for the finals, which means that there will only be three quarter-finals
• Füchse Berlin, SC Magdeburg and Grundfos Tatabanya have already qualified for the quarter-finals
• Seven teams are involved in the battle for the last three quarter-finals berths.
• Only five teams are completely without a chance to reach the quarter-finals before the last match day
Saint-Raphael Var Handball (FRA) vs Füchse Belin (GER)
Saturday 1 April 20.35 local time, live on ehfTV.com
After a troublesome start to the group phase, Saint-Raphael have their fate in their own hands before their last group match.
At least a draw at home against Füchse Saturday night and the team from Southern France are through to the quarter-finals.
Even in case of a defeat, Saint-Raphael may still make it, but a defeat will make them dependent on results from Group B and D. In the worst scenario they may not know their destiny until Sunday.
However, it may be an advantage to them that they are up against a team who has nothing at stake. Already last weekend, Füchse qualified for the quarter-finals and made sure to win the group.
The main motivation for the Bundesliga team will be maintaining their status as undefeated throughout the group phase.
RD Riko Ribnica (SLO) vs GOG (DEN)
Sunday 2 April 17.00 local time, live on ehfTV.com
To Ribnica the match will mark the end to their first European campaign in history.
The Slovenian side is sure to finish last in the group but can still hope to get their first points in the group phase in their last stand.
The visitors, on the other hand, may still have something to fight for when the match in the Sportni center starts.
If Saint-Raphael lose against Füchse on Saturday, GOG can clinch their quarter-final berth simply by winning in Slovenia.
If the French side get at least a point, GOG will have to look to the results in Group B and D, where number two cannot have more than six points, if the Danish quarter-final hope is to be kept alive.
Furthermore GOG may need a big win to beat the goal difference of another second placed team with six points.
"We must simply play for the chance as long as it is there," GOG right wing Mark Strandgaard told his club's website.
HC Midtjylland (DEN) vs Fraikin BM Granollers (ESP)
Saturday 1 April 16.00 local time
In case of a win HC Midtjylland still have a theoretical chance to finish second in the group.
However, the four points the European debutants will have in that case will be far from being enough for a quarter-final ticket.
Instead, Midtjylland can help another Danish team.
By defeating Granollers they can boost GOG's chances to reach the quarter-finals as the only Danish team this season.
However, having suffered 11 straight defeats in the Danish league and four in the EHF Cup the hosts may not be entering the court with the highest possible self-confidence.
Granollers, who reached the finals last season, will need a win to maintain the chance to proceed.
This may still not be enough but considering the Spanish team's fine goal difference, compared to those of their rivals, the odds will be good for Granollers, if they can take two points in Herning.
Frisch Auf Göppingen (GER) vs Futebolde Clube do Porto (POR)
Saturday 1 April 19.30 local time
The only aim left for Göppingen is going through the group phase with maximum points.
Through their convincing 35:27 away win against Granollers last Sunday, the German team made sure to win the group and proceeded directly to the finals of which they are organisers. Winning the group without losing a single point may still be sufficient motivation for head coach Magnus Andersson's men.
Porto still have a theoretical chance to reach the quarter-finals, but this will not only take a win in the EWS Arena Saturday evening.
The Portuguese team will also depend on several other results, and in fact, it may already be over for them, when they enter the court in Göppingen.
If Granollers win against Midtjylland, that result alone will be enough to send Porto out.
Grundfos Tatabanya KC (HUN) vs SC Magdeburg (GER)
Saturday 1 April 15.00 local time, live on ehfTV.com
Both teams have qualified for the quarter-finals already, but this does certainly not meant that the match in the Audi Arena of Györ is without importance.
With Magdeburg being on nine points and Tatabanya on eight, the first place in the group is simply going to be decided in this encounter, and winning the group carries two obvious advantages with it. You meet a second placed team in the quarter-final and you play the second leg at home.
Therefore, there is no doubt that both sides will give top priority to this match in which Tatabanya are chasing a revenge for the 30:25 defeat in the Bördelandhalle in their first meeting with Magdeburg.
KIF Kolding Kobenhavn (DEN) vs Maccabi CASTRO Tel Aviv (ISR)
Saturday 1 April 18.45 local time, live on ehfTV.com
This match stands out in the way that it is the only match in the entire group phase on this last match day, which has absolutely no significance to any of the teams involved. Neither team can reach the quarter-finals anymore and it is also a fact that KIF finish third and Maccabi Tel Aviv fourth.
The Israeli champions still have a chance to finish their first European group phase campaign ever by taking their first points, though.
To the hosts it will be a question of ending their European season with a win after three defeats in a row.
MT Melsungen (GER) vs Cocks (FIN)
Saturday 1 April 19.30 local time
While the three other German teams in the group phase, Füchse, Göppingen and Magdeburg have all made sure to proceed in the tournament, Melsungen are under pressure ahead of their last match.
A win at home against Cocks is a must for them in order to be completely sure to reach the quarter-finals.
However, due to the fact that they are better internally than their rivals Benfica and Helvetia Anaitasuna, a win will do for Melsungen, although they may finish on the same number of points – eight – as the Portugues and the Spanish side.
Head coach Michael Roth has of course realised the seriousness of his team's situation.
"We will simply have to remain focused throughout the game.
"Even though the Finnish side have zero points so far, they are extremely dangerous which we learned in our first match against them," says Roth, of course referring to the match in Finland on 19 February in which only a goal from Momir Rnic in the dying seconds secured Melsungen a narrow 29:28 win.
Helvetia Anaitasuna (ESP) vs SL Benfica (POR)
Saturday 1 April 20.00 local time
This group may end in the peculiar situation that eight points will not even be enough to reach the quarter-finals, while six points – or possibly even less – will be enough from other groups.The reason for this apparent paradox is the fact that three teams may all finish on eight points and the third place does obviously not give access to the next round.
We will see three teams on eight points if Melsungen defeat Cocks and Anaitasuna beat Benfica. In that case, the internal matches among the three teams will decide the succession and here Melsungen are better than both other teams.
Being on top with eight points already, Benfica can obviously make everything clear in their own favour by getting at least a draw against Anaitasuna in Pamplona Saturday night, but their 33:28 in their first match against the Spanish side also gives them a very good chance even in case of a defeat.
In fact, Benfica can afford a three goal defeat and still proceed, if Melsungen live up to expectations and beat Cocks.
Anaitasuna's only chance to decide their own destiny is winning by at least five goals.
This will send them on to the quarters from at least second position regardless of the outcome between Melsungen and Cocks.
As the two matches are practically being played almost simultaneously, none of the teams will know the result of the other match before entering the court.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / si