Seven teams from round 1 capable of making a big splash
The final weekend of August will feel like a very early start to a European campaign for the teams set to play in qualification round 1 of the European League Men, but this may be the start of something special for those who have eyes on making it all the way to the EHF Finals next May.
There may be three rounds between these teams and the group phase but do not let that fool you, there are teams here with the required tools to launch a long and successful campaign. Here are seven of the top contenders making an early start to the competition.
Having reached the final tournament of the EHF Cup back in 2019, Holstebro are well versed in the ways of Europe’s second tier and know what it takes to navigate the rounds.
Although they have lost Kay Smits and Sebastian Frandsen over the summer, a big signing came through the doors in Nikolaj Markussen, joining from Veszprém.
With the likes of Markussen and Magnus Bramming, this Holstebro team have the quality to compete with anyone at this level but they will have to get past RK Trimo Trebnje in round 1, who themselves had a good run last season.
Following a few seasons of relative obscurity in the EHF Champions League, Kadetten looked like they found a place to thrive in the European League, getting themselves involved in some of the most thrilling matches of the group phase and pushing Montpellier hard before eventually bowing out in the last 16.
The summer signing of Joan Cañellas, combined with a core of Swiss players developing their international pedigree, expect another solid campaign from Schaffhausen.
RK Celje Pivovarna Laško or GOG
There is a reason both a listed together here and it is because only one will actually progress from the first round. They are facing off in undoubtedly the most exciting clash of round 1 and it is very difficult to figure out who will progress.
It is a clash of two of the most prolific and impressive talent factories in Europe. Celje have dropped out of the EHF Champions League for the first time since 2011, in search of some self-confidence in Europe. Meanwhile GOG will be full of self-confidence after an exciting run to the quarter-finals last season, they possess the Tokyo 2020 MVP Mathias Gidsel and they just signed Jerry Tollbring and Torbjørn Bergerud over the summer. Whoever progresses from this tie will go far.
Croatia’s perennial second club have had their ups and downs in Europe over the years but one thing is for certain, they will make a splash in this competition.
Last season, they came agonisingly close to shocking Rhein-Neckar Löwen in the last 16 and their search for a major breakthrough continues in this campaign, where they will look to rising star Halil Jaganjac for inspiration.
It was a disappointing EHF Finals on home court for Löwen in May and now they must restart from square one, embarking on a long road to this season’s final tournament.
There is no question about ability with this team, they have a formidable lineup which has been strengthened by the addition of Germany’s great playmaking hope, Juri Knorr. In what looks set to be Andy Schmid’s last season with the club, can he leave on a high and deliver some much-missed European success for this club.
As newcomers to the international scene last season, CSKA were the surprise package of the European League last season, knocking Bjerringbro out in the qualification rounds and acquitting themselves well in the group phase, playing an open and aggressive style of handball.
They have bolstered their squad over the summer with experienced internationals Dmitrii Kiselev and Andrei Korkin and look well set to contend in the European league again and attempt to become top dogs in Russia.