QUARTER-FINAL PREVIEW: All three return matches of the Men's EHF Cup quarter-finals are taking place in Germany on Saturday, but each under different conditions.
Excitement in Kassel, while Füchse and Magdeburg aim to finish the job
The situations will be very different in the second leg of the three quarter-final ties of the Men's EHF Cup quarter-finals on Saturday.
QUARTER-FINAL, SECOND LEG
Having won the first leg in Hungary by five goals (30:25), Füchse are obvious favourites to qualify for their third EHF Cup Finals appearance in three years.
Füchse were leading by six goals several times in the first match in Györ, including a 17:11 lead at half time, but a five-goal lead should be enough to make them feel safe and secure in the Max-Schmeling-Halle on Saturday afternoon.
"Being five goals up is just about perfect, as it is still narrow enough to keep us from sleeping for the start of the return match away, and at the same time it is a reassuring lead, in case we have a bad day," said Füchse line player Kresimir Kozina.
Füchse had a reassuring dress rehearsal on Wednesday evening, as they won 34:27 at home against TSV Hannover-Burgdorf in the Bundesliga.
Magdeburg are in an even more comfortable position than Füchse.
The Champions League winners are defending a seven-goal lead in the Bördelandhalle on Saturday, after winning 34:27 in Pamplona last Sunday.
Anaitasuna did manage to reduce Magdeburg's five-goal lead in the first half of Sunday's match to just 15:13 at half-time, only to see the visitors create an even bigger lead after the break.
"We were very happy with that first match, as it is our objective to be at the Final Four in Göppingen," said Magdeburg coach Bennet Wiegert.
Meanwhile his opposite number at Anaitasuna is hoping that a change of defence can slightly improve his team's chances.
"I think that with a different defence system, we can try to get a better result.
"However, we are really exhausted at the moment, as we have played a lot of games between now and February," head coach Juanto Apezetxea said.
Saint-Raphael have the chance to break what might be a German dominance at the LIQUI MOLY EHF Cup Finals in Göppingen next month.
Having won 30:26 at home against Melsungen, the team from Southern France definitely have a chance to advance beyond the EHF Cup quarter-finals for the first time in five attempts.
To Melsungen, the situation is a bit of a déjà vu. In their only previous European campaign, they were chasing a five-goal deficit at home against Danish side Skjern in the second leg of the 2014/15 EHF Cup Quarter-final, only to be eliminated on away goals.
This time, the Bundesliga side may be able to find some encouragement in the fact that they will have to catch up one goal less in the Rothenbach Halle in Kassel Saturday night.
Saint-Raphael coach Joël da Silva expects the pressure to be on Melsungen, and hopes to benefit from that.
"We are only half-way, and we are going to play in a magnificent arena, where their crowd will put an enormous pressure on us.
"However, Melsungen are under pressure to get a result, and we should be able to make use of the nervousness this situation should cause them.
"We are not a team who are good at just defending a lead though, so we will obviously aim for a win in this match as well," da Silva told his club´s website.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / ap
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