Aalborg and Kielce face tough tasks at home
Apart from the clash between reigning VELUX EHF Champions League title holders HC Vardar and FC Barcelona Lassa, and the THW Kiel versus SG Flensburg-Handewitt derby, the upcoming weekend offers a pair of fascinating Group B contests, as PGE Vive Kielce take on leaders Telekom Veszprém HC, while Paris Saint-Germain Handball visit Aalborg.
• HBC Nantes look for second group phase win as they take on IFK Kristianstad
• PSG Handball are wary of avoiding a defeat in Aalborg, having already lost one away match
• Struggling Kielce need to beat Veszprém to climb into the group’s top four
HBC Nantes (FRA) vs IFK Kristianstad (SWE)
Saturday 14 October, 17:30 local time, live on ehfTV
Nantes seem to be enjoying their first season in the upper tier of the VELUX EHF Champions League. If their performances so far are anything to go by, the French side should be too strong for IFK Kristianstad on the home court.
Despite a 31:25 defeat in Barcelona in the previous round, Nantes showed that they are capable of holding their own against Europe’s top teams, indicating they will be a very difficult prospect for IFK in front of their fervent home fans.
In contrast, Kristianstad have drawn one and lost three – although one might argue that they have had a tough fixture list so far and should not be written off against Nantes. Kristianstad’s ability to produce an upset relies largely on a tightening of their defence, as they have conceded 130 goals, or an average of 32.5 per game.
Nantes did not have a happy dress rehearsal for the clash with Kristianstad, losing 22:30 to Dunkerque in the top French division on Thursday to remain sixth in the 14-team league with three wins and two defeats.
The Swedish side beat Redbergslids 30:26 to stay in pole position on the domestic front with 14 points from eight gamers, two ahead of Ystads IF.
HC Vardar (MKD) vs FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP)
Saturday 14 October, 17:30 local time, live on ehfTV
Previous Group A results in Round 5:
Orlen Wisla Plock (POL) vs MOL-Pick Szeged 27:33 (12:15)
Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER) vs HC Prvo plinarsko drustvo Zagreb (CRO) 31:24 (15:11)
Aalborg Handball (DEN) vs Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA)
Sunday 15 October, 16:50 local time, live on ehfTV
Paris Saint-Germain Handball have already received several warning signs that their star-studded outfit can take nothing for granted against any opposition. A tame 33:29 defeat in Flensburg in Round 3 proved that the French giants are far from invulnerable.
Despite a 32:28 home win against Meshkov Brest and a 32:27 victory over Celje Pivovarna Lasko, PSG’s defence in both games showed there are plenty of chinks in their armour.
However, they should still have too much firepower for their Danish hosts on Sunday, who will be roared on by a fervent home crowd in their bid to produce what would be a stunning upset.
Aalborg have been idle in the Danish championship, after a 28:26 home win against Midtjylland on October 4 left them fifth in the domestic league on eight points from six games. Their results demonstrate the exertions of playing on two fronts, as they have so far been unable to stamp their authority on the national competition as effectively as last season.
In the French league, PSG enjoyed an emphatic 36:28 win at lowly Saran to stay on top with a maximum 10 points from five games, placing them ahead of perennial rivals Montpellier on goal difference.
Sunday’s match will be the first meeting between the two sides in European cup competition – and is likely to keep fans on the edge of their seats.
PGE Vive Kielce (POL) vs Telekom Veszprém (HUN)
Sunday 15 October, 19:00 local time, live on ehfTV
Kielce have been on something of a downward spiral after winning Europe’s premier club competition in 2016. The heavyweight clash against Group B leaders Veszprém will show whether they have the mettle to bounce back into the elite.
The Polish champions have had a rough ride so far, collecting only three points from four games, as they crashed to shock defeats at Meshkov Brest (28:25) and Celje (31:27). Their only bright moment came in a thumping 32:21 home win over Kiel.
Kielce also earned a creditable 25:25 home draw with Flensburg in Round 4, and the home fans will be hoping they can produce a similar performance against mighty Veszprém.
The Hungarian side have so far been unstoppable and are the only team in either Group A or B with a perfect record. They will head to Kielce with confidence, expecting another win to cement their position at the top of the table.
Overall, Veszprém have won five of their seven meetings with Kielce, but the last one – a 39:38 overtime defeat in the Champions League 2015/16 Final – left bitter memories after the Hungarian side lost a decisive lead in what was a spectacular contest.
There is little doubt they will be yearning for revenge against Kielce, who have since been a shadow of the side that became the first from Poland to win the VELUX EHF Champions League.
Veszprém are also on top of the Hungarian league with six wins from as many games after a 39:20 mauling of Ferencvaros, staying ahead of traditional rivals Szeged on goal difference.
Kielce lead the Polish Superliga with a maximum 14 points from seven games after a 33:20 home victory over Zabrze.
RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko (SLO) vs Meshkov Brest (BLR)
Saturday 14 October, 19:00 local time, live on ehfTV
THW Kiel (GER) vs SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER)
Sunday 15 October, 18:30 local time, live on ehfTV