Kiel have the edge in first power ranking
Tension is building as the EHF Champions League Men starts into its 2021/22 season this week.
The 16 teams have completed their preparations after a long summer – which included the Tokyo Olympics for many players. They are now ready to take the courts in Europe’s top flight.
Here is our current EHF Champions League power ranking, the traditional look into the crystal globe right before the action starts on Wednesday and Thursday.
10. HC PPD Zagreb
After a season to forget in the EHF Champions League – losing each and every match and using three different coaches on the bench – Zagreb could be back with a bang for 2021/22. They made a fresh start this summer, with loads of new arrivals. The first results are promising: in the regional SEHA League, they beat Vardar in the quarter- and Meshkov Brest in the semi-final before narrowly losing the final 31:29 to Veszprém last week.
9. Montpellier HB
The 2018 champions are back in the top flight after spending their 2020/21 season in the EHF European League, where they were only edged in the quarter-final by eventual finalists Füchse Berlin. Montpellier seem ready to take on any opponents. Out of their eight games since this summer, they have only lost only one – to Limoges. With evergreen Patrice Canayer going into his 28th season as coach on the bench, don’t be surprised to see another strong campaign from the French side.
8. HC Motor
They made it out of the group phase for the first time last season; can they go even further this time? Motor are ambitious – and rightly so. They just lost in the play-offs last season to Meshkov Brest, but got some kind of revenge with a 31:20 win over Brest in the third-place match of the SEHA League last week. An omen for things to come?
7. Pick Szeged
The reigning Hungarian champions started the new domestic season with three big, double-digit wins. Those results came after a near-perfect preparation period, which saw Juan Carlos Pastor’s team win all matches they played – including two against fellow EHF Champions League side Elverum. Szeged are ready to put last season’s disappointment (out in the play-offs) behind them and start a new attempt to get that coveted ticket to Cologne.
6. Aalborg Håndbold
After their surprise run to the EHF FINAL4 2021 final, Aalborg will aim for nothing less this season. However, expectations can become a burden. The start of the season was promising, with Aron Pálmarsson as most notable new arrival, as Aalborg won the Danish super cup against European League contenders Mors-Thy (33:25). However, they lost their league opener against Sonderjyske and are already lagging two points behind main rivals GOG and Skjern after three rounds.
5. Paris Saint-Germain HB
Each year handball experts include PSG into their list of title favourites – but actually lifting that trophy is something the French champions have yet to do. PSG eased through their preparation games this summer, which also included a clash with Skjern Håndbold. No doubt, PSG remain a top team, even though they have to find a solution for the departure of Dylan Nahi.
4. Lomza Vive Kielce
The 2016 EHF Champions League winners enjoyed a rather quiet summer, with wins over EHF European League runners-up Füchse Berlin and over SKA Minsk as notable results in test matches. The arrival of PSG’s Dylan Nahi is a further strengthening of a squad that has all what it takes to go far, really far in the EHF Champions League this season.
They got each and every opponent out of their way as they stormed to the EHF Champions League 2020/21 title last season, winning all 20 matches – and lots of them by big margins. They started the domestic season by winning their ninth straight Spanish super cup, defeating Ademar Leon 30:27. Barça might well be Europe’s No. 1 at the end again, but they have to prove themselves under new coach Antonio Carlos Ortega, after 12 highly successful years under Xavi Pascual, so that is why they don’t get the top spot in our power ranking right away.
2. Telekom Veszprém HC
Apart from a slip-up against Balatonfüred – when their many players involved in the Olympics were missing – Veszprém seem as strong as ever. Now led by Momir Ilic for his first main coaching job, the Hungarian side defeated the likes of Nexe, Motor and Zagreb on their way to another SEHA League title. While their 2020/21 campaign stranded in the quarter-finals against HBC Nantes, Veszprém look ready to make this season a different one.
1. THW Kiel
The 2020 champions are in fine form early on. They certainly have left missing the EHF FINAL4 2021 behind them and are focused on a new season of glory. Thanks to an impressive Niklas Landin, they recently defeated Veszprém in a top-level friendly, and they beat EHF European League participants TBV Lemgo Lippe in the German super cup. Only their first trophy of the season?