03.04.2018, 05:20
Vardar remain top of power ranking

NEWS REPORT: The team from Skopje have left the best impression on our EHF experts panel once again as the Women's EHF Champions League approaches the quarter-finals this weekend

Vardar remain top of power ranking

With the race to the Women’s EHF FINAL4 in Budapest now at full speed, the ehfCL.com journalists across Europe have taken a look at the eight remaining teams in the Champions League.

It was hard to separate them. But despite the difficulty, the EHF experts have agreed that HC Vardar have been the most impressive team lately - for the second time in a row.

With the first leg of the quarter-finals coming up this weekend, here is our latest Women’s EHF Champions League power ranking:

10. Nykøbing

The only bad step Nykøbing made in their European season was losing their last game to Midtjylland. A draw would have been enough for the Norwegian side to secure their first ever quarter-final ticket but they failed to deliver. But, all in all, a pretty impressive performance for their maiden Champions League participation.

9. Krim

Up until the last day of the main round, Krim Mercator were in with a chance to qualify for the quarter-finals. But then a defeat in Györ sealed the fate of the Slovenian side. Being in the race for the quarter-finals was almost unexpected for Krim, with one of the youngest squads of the whole competition. For sure, we will see them again very soon.

8. Midtjylland

The Danish team had to wait until the very last minute of their last main round game to be sure of their quarter-final qualification. Up until then, it looked like they would not make it. But here they are, thinking that their good luck might take them to Budapest for a second time. But in order to see it happen, they will have to find alternatives to Veronica Kristiansen in attack. The third best scorer of the competition has done it on her own many times - but that just will not work against Vardar in the quarter-finals.

7. FTC

The Hungarian side had the possibility to finish second of their main round group but let the opportunity slip away with a surprise defeat in Bietigheim. What could have looked like a real opportunity for them to go to the FINAL4 now seems like a long journey. When the attack is working, the defence is not, and vice versa. After two defeats in the last two seasons, could it be third time's the charm for FTC in the quarter-finals?

6. Buducnost

In their first season without Cristina Naegu, Buducnost still qualified for the quarter-finals. But winning only three games in the main round didn't help them gaining much confidence. And facing Györ in the last stage before the FINAL4 doesn’t make them look like favourites to us.

5 CSM Bucuresti

The 2016 champions have a mountain to climb to get to Budepest. The reason? A third place in their main round group, behind Györ and Rostov, forces them to face Metz, with the return game away. They let go coach Helle Thomsen right before the last game of the main round to get Per Johansson back on the bench again. And despite Cristina Naegu piling up goals, to stand second in the top scorers' ranking, Bucarest fell short of the second place. But they could get back on the right track next weekend.

4. Metz

The French side were the only one who defeated Vardar this season, and that tells you how big a prospect they are for the Budapest trip. Last season, they finished fourth and stumbled against Györ in the quarter-final, but it looks like they have their chances against CSM this time. They will have to repeat their performances from the group phase, though, to gain their first ever FINAL4 ticket. The motivation from players leaving the club this summer (Ana Gros, Laurisa Landré, Marina Rajcic) is as big as it could be.

3. Rostov-Don

Fred Bougeant's team won their last main round game against Bucuresti by one, giving themselves a quarter-final clash with FTC and home-court advantage for the second leg next week. The Russians side have overcome injuries, like Ana Sen's, thanks to good individual performances, like Alexandrina Barbosa's. Their experience as one of the oldest rosters in the competition has helped them in key moments this season, and might do so again. If they don't underestimate their opponent, like they might have done with CSM Bucuresti two seasons ago, we might see them in Budapest in May.

2. Györ

The Hungarian side are the proof that you can win the hardest of main round groups, even without key players like Nora Mørk, Anja Althaus and Eduarda Amorim. Despite all this trouble, Györ remained the best defensive side of the competition and the reigning champions finished ahead of Rostov and CSM. Ambros Martin's side remained unbeaten at home while only losing two matches since the beginning of their European season, to Rostov and CSM - two teams that look stronger than the Hungarian's next opponents, Buducnost. As one of the experts put it: “Even when life throws them sour lemons, Györ make an excellent lemonade.”

1. Vardar

The players might have been told, right in the middle of the season, about the plans for the future, and some of them have already secured contracts elsewhere for next season. But nevertheless, Vardar still finished the main round with just one defeat - to Metz - and that's an impressive record. FC Midtjylland, Vardar's opponent in the quarter-finals, don't look like a hurdle high enough to stop last year's finalists from going back to Budapest. And with the motivation of having one last journey together before going separate ways in the summer, some of us think you might even see Amandine Leynaud and her teammates lift the trophy in Budapest.

TEXT: Kevin Domas / ew

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