ROUND PREVIEW: Six hopeful teams play the first leg of their Men's EHF Cup quarter-final this weekend. Their aim is to join host Frisch Auf Göppingen in the LIQUI MOLY EHF Cup Finals in May.
The battle to join Göppingen in the Finals begin
As hosts, Frisch Auf Göppingen have already qualified directly for the LIQUI MOLY EHF Cup Finals next month, and this leaves three further places available for the final weekend in Göppingen. Those three tickets will be decided during the coming two weekends, as three German teams meet Spanish, Hungarian and French opposition in the quarter-finals.
Men's EHF Cup quater-finals, first leg
Grundfos Tatabanya KC (HUN) vs Füchse Berlin (GER)
Tatabanya are not only debutants in a European quarter-final, until this season the Hungarian club had never made it past the qualification rounds under the current EHF Cup format. Previously their finest achievement was reaching the Last 16 of the EHF Cup in the 2010/11 season.
On their European home court of the Audi Arena in Györ, they are taking on 2015 EHF Cup champions Füchse, who were also in the EHF Champions League FINAL4 back in 2012.
Tatabanya already have experience of German opponents in the EHF Cup this season, as they finished second behind SC Magdeburg in the group phase.
"Each and every one of us knows that this is a decisive game. Our great goal is the Final Four, and therefore we travel to Hungary with a lot of motivation, thorough preparation and plenty of info about Tatabanya," Füchse coach Vladimir Petkovic told his club's website.
"They are third in the Hungarian league, and they have already shown their strength. The only lost narrowly against Magdeburg and have drawn against a world class team like Szeged in the Hungarian league," added Petkovic.
Both teams have been in the quarter-final of this tournament before - Saint-Raphael three times, Melsungen once.
Saint-Raphael were in the quarter-final as recently as last season, when they lost on aggregate to fellow French side Chambery Savoie Handball.
Melsungen are actually only in a European competition for the second time in their history, but in their only other previous European campaign they made it to the quarter-final of the EHF Cup.
In the 2014/15 season, they lost on away goals to Danish outfit Skjern. The extremely narrow defeat to Skjern two years ago plays a considerable part in Melsungen coach Michael Roth's thoughts before the trip to Southern France.
"With this format of away and home games, it is crucial to make good use of the first chance. From our EHF Cup campaign two years ago, we know how hard it can be to catch up with just a five goal deficit.
"We did not succeed with that back then, but I am sure we have learned from that. This time we will make it better," Roth promised while speaking to Melsungen's website.
It is only the second time in the history of Helvetia Anaitasuna that the Spanish team are taking part in a European Cup tournament.
Last year, the Pamplona-based side made their European debut by reaching the group phase of the EHF Cup, and this season they have made it one step further.
In the quarter-final, they are up against a team who have not only won the EHF Cup three times already, but are also the only team in the tournament who have even won the EHF Champions League.
Back in the 2001/02 season, the Bundesliga team won the Champions League final on aggregate against Veszprém.
Magdeburg coach Bennet Wiegert, who was actually part of the winning Magdeburg team in 2002, is rather impressed by his team's quarter-final opponent.
"Anaitasuna are a relatively young team with many Spanish players who have already played together for quite some time.
"They play good, attractive and, in my opinion, modern handball with lots of speed.
"However, we still consider Anaitasuna to be the easiest task in our Mission Göppingen, but they did defeat Melsungen in the group phase and they are dangerous if we do not appear well prepared," warned Wiegert.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / ap
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