German sides to start semi-finals at home
Just four teams stay in fight for the Women's EHF Cup, where the time has already come for the semi-finals.
Both first leg games will be held in Germany - Metzingen face Rostov, while Bietigheim are scheduled to play against NFH and both matches will be streamed live on ehfTV.com.
• Two German teams have reached the semi-final, as well as one Russian and one Danish side
• Rostov and Metzingen have been EHF Cup finalists in the past, while Bietigheim and NFH play their maiden international season
• NFH's Nathalie Hagman is the competition's top scorer with 57 goals
• The games between Bietigheim and NFH will feature a duel of Danish head coaches Martin Albertsen and Niels Agesen
Women's EHF Cup semi-final, first leg
TuS Metzingen (GER) vs Rostov-Don (RUS)
Saturday 8 April, 20:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com
The "pink ladies" from Metzingen enjoy their only second international season, yet they have been quite successful so far.
Last season, the German team reached the EHF Cup final where they lost to Dunaujvaros. After merging with the Challenge Cup, the tournament's level has improved, but it did not prevent Metzingen from making it to the top four.
Having finished second behind Nykøbing in Group D, they went on to beat Nantes twice in the quarter-final - 27:23 at home and 31:28 away.
However, Metzingen's recent results in the German Bundesliga have not been that bright. Last Saturday, the team of Csaba Konkoly lost in Dortmund 27:25, and on Tuesday, they were narrowly beaten by fellow EHF Cup semi-finalist Bietigheim (24:23).
Contrary to that, Rostov feel very comfortable in the Russian league where they won all 20 matches of the preliminary round. Last Sunday, the team of Frederic Bougeant celebrated another confident victory, this time smashing the current champions Astrakhanochka - 36:22.
That was an excellent dress rehearsal before the semi-final of the EHF Cup - a tournament where Rostov are regarded by many as favourites.
"It was important to give some practice to all our players prior to the clash with Metzingen. Luckily no one was injured, so we are ready for the trip to Germany," Bougeant told the club's website.
With the French coach at the helm, Rostov seem to have gained stability and confidence, which has also affected their performance in the EHF Cup.
Following five wins in six Group C matches, they faced no big problems against Brest in the quarter-finals, and now hope to continue their six-game winning run at Metzingen.
SG BBM Bietigheim (GER) vs NFH-Nykøbing Falster Handboldklub
Sunday 9 April, 17:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com
Bietigheim's road to the semi-final was nothing but simple. In the competitive Group C, the German team had just a 50-per cent record (3 wins, 3 defeats), but finished second and squeezed to the next round.
In the quarter-final, they beat Kuban by seven goals at home - and despite struggling in the second leg in Russia, ultimately weathered the storm and earned a spot among the top four teams.
On domestic arena, however, Bietigheim have been more consistent as the team have sensationally won all of their 20 Bundesliga matches - including the victory against Metzingen on Tuesday, which should be a moral boost prior to the EHF Cup semi-final.
Bietigheim have a Danish coach Martin Albertsen, whose knowledge of the team from his country may become in important asset for the German side. Personally for Albertsen, both legs of the clash with NFH will probably feel like home games.
Yet the Nykøbing side, coached by Niels Agesen, boast their own trump cards, and the powerful attack is one of them. It is worth recalling once again that at the group phase, NFH scored the highest amount of goals among all participants (194).
In the quarter-final against Randers, their scorers were not so prolific, yet Agesen's team won the Danish derby. Despite losing the first leg 27:24, they turned things around at home, and the 28:23 victory handed them a semi-final spot.
Nykøbing's Nathalie Hagman is currently the competition's top scorer with 57 games, so holding her back should be a vital question for Bietigheim.
TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / si