QUALIFICATION ROUND PREVIEW: 24 hopeful teams will be opening the new season of European handball club competitions this weekend, with Men’s EHF Cup Qualification Round 1.
Men’s EHF Cup throws off this weekend
24 teams from across Europe will have the honour of opening the 2017/18 season of European handball club competitions this weekend, as the first of three qualification rounds for the Men’s EHF Cup Group Phase commences.
The weekend will feature a total of five double headers.
The action starts on Friday night in Lisbon and Plzen.
Last season, S. L. Benfica reached the group phase for the first time in history.
On Friday, the Lisbon team will start their campaign to repeat this achievement, as they host European debutants HC Dinamo Pancevo from Serbia for the first leg of their double header together.
The second match between these two teams in the Portuguese capital is set for late Saturday afternoon. Both matches will be live on ehfTV.com.
Talent Robstav M. A. T. Plzen had their most successful season in 1998/99, when the Czech side participated in the EHF Champions League.
For the past three years, the qualification tournament for the EHF Cup has been the end of the road for Plzen. They will attempt to break from this pattern starting with a double header on Friday and Saturday against OLYMPIACOS S.F.P. from Piraeus, Greece. This Greek side made their first appearance in a European club competition last season, when they reached the third round of the Challenge Cup.
The first leg of this double header will be on Friday night, while the second leg will be on Sunday afternoon.
This weekend boasts another three double headers.
In Bocholt, Belgium, Achilles Bocholt are hosting the Montenegrin side RK Partizan 1949 Tivat for two matches Saturday and Sunday, while the Macedonian side HC Ohrid 2013 are celebrating their European debut at home against the Dutch side KRAS/Volendam. Finally, the Norwegian side OIF Arendal are travelling to Luxembourg for two games against Handball Esch.
A Nordic derby in Iceland
A Nordic derby is happening in Iceland on Saturday evening, as Afturelding are marking their return to a European handball competition, after 20 years of absence. They will take on the Norwegian side BSK Handball Elite for the first leg on Saturday, before going to Norway next Saturday for the second leg.
“We have played eight matches before meeting Bækkelaget (BSK) so we are well prepared.
“We are looking forward to playing them, but I realise that they have a strong team, and we should have plenty of respect for them,” said Afturelding coach Einar Andri Einarsson.
An all-Austrian clash
For many years, the Maria Enzersdorf venue in Wiener Südstadt was the home ground of a legend in women’s handball, HYPO Niederösterreich.
On saturday night, however, it will be the venue for the first leg of an all-Austrian men’s tie, as SG INSIGNIS Handball Westwien are hosting the first leg of their encounter against Bregenz Handball.
“Bregenz have been considerably reinforced ahead of this season, but I believe that if we invest one hundred per cent and play with spirit and passion, we should at least be able to defeat them at home,” finds Westwien left wing Sebastian Frimmel.
TEXT: Peter Bruun/kc
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