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20 days ago - 11/26/2018

Six topics to speak about after Round 9

The last round of the VELUX EHF Champions League showed the competition at its very best.

We have gone through nine rounds and the heat is turning up. Groups C/D are facing the final decisions while Groups A/B are approaching the business end as well.

After a thrilling week of handball, there are a lot of different topics to cover in our talking points. Let’s go!

Szeged pulls PSG down from the skies

If the game between MOL-Pick Szeged and Paris Saint-Germain HB was not discussed at your dinner party over the weekend, we would be surprised. The Hungarian side became the first to beat the French giants (33:32) this season in Group B.

PSG had won their first eight games but with 11 goals from Stefan Sigurmannsson and a match-winning performance from goalkeeper Mirko Alilovic, Szeged pulled the French side down from the skies.

The game further underlined the dominant position of those two teams in the group. They are only divided by one point, with a seven-point gap to Nantes and Flensburg-Handewitt in third place.

Barça are simply unstoppable

Speaking of dominance, Barça Lassa put themselves stronger in the driving seat in the battle for top spot in Group A - and free passage to the quarter-final.

They clinched a huge win in Poland against PGE Vive Kielce, 42:36. The high-scoring game left the Polish side four points behind the Spanish group leaders.

Barça are simply unstoppable with eight wins in a row, four away from equalling their longest winning run in the competition. A win against HC Meshkov Brest in Round 10 would see them become the only team of the season with 10 wins in a row.

The champions in further trouble

We have gone over the top clashes in Groups A/B, but the situation is getting more intense down at the bottom as well. Most noticeable is how reigning champions Montpellier HB are on the brink of missing out on the Last 16.

Beaten by the buzzer and by IFK Kristianstad (31:30), the title holders sit alone at the bottom of Group A with only three points. Both HC Meshkov Brest, after drawing with HC Vardar, and Kristianstad are two points ahead, on five.

With five rounds left, those three teams have to battle for their future in the competition this season, which all relies on the sixth spot.

Group B shows difference with domestic leagues

The battle in Group B is a lot tighter as only two points divide all teams outside of the top two.

This group is a textbook example of the difference between the domestic leagues and the VELUX EHF Champions League. For example, SG Flensburg-Handewitt have won their first 14 games in the German Bundesliga, but only won their first away match in Europe’s top flight since Round 1, against Skjern Handbold (31:24).

Skjern, RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko and HC PPD Zagreb share last place with six points each, but the others, at seven and eight points, are far from safe yet.

History for Sporting as Presov break down

Tatran Presov broke down under pressure in the race for a play-off spot in Group C. They suffered their heaviest defeat of the season, 38:26 against Chekhovskie Medvedi, who were already out of the race.

Meanwhile, Sporting CP are through to the play-offs for the first time after a win over Besiktas, 34:28. The Portuguese side is equal on points with Bjerringbro-Silkeborg, who they meet in the last round. But regardless the results in Round 10, Sporting cannot be bumped out of the top two spots anymore.

Presov are two points behind but have only themselves to blame after their slip-up in Russia.

A possible final to join Plock in play-off

Orlen Wisla Plock secured one of the two play-off spots in Group D with a 25:23 win against Abanca Ademar Leon. The battle to follow them is yet to be decided.

As Elverum Handball won by the buzzer against Wacker Thun (29:28), their clash on Saturday against Leon could be a true final… but only if Dinamo Bucuresti have suffered a slip-up at Thun two days earlier. If the Romanian side take both points home from Switzerland, they are through.

Author: Andri Yrkill Valsson / ew