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8 days ago - 11/10/2017

World-class clashes in Paris and Barcelona

Round 7 of the VELUX EHF Champions League means that half of the group phase is over on Sunday for clubs in groups A and B. The ehfTV.com Match of the Week is the re-match of the 2017 semi-final, while a Balkan clash in Group A will electrify the fans and the Lions of Löwen visit the lion’s den in Barcelona.

  • Vardar have never won in Zagreb in any EHF competition
  • Löwen arrive in Barcelona straight from completing a Bundesliga match
  • Kielce are under pressure in Denmark
  • PSG and Veszprém coaches have already duelled in the 2007 CL final
  • MOL-PICK Szeged play HBC Nantes for the first time in the competition, they played in the Men’s EHF Cup back in the 2013/14 season

GROUP A

HC Prvo plinarsko drustvo Zagreb (CRO) vs HC Vardar (MKD)
Saturday 11. November, 20:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

Can Zagreb stop Vardar’s series of success and gain some important points for their Last 16 ticket? This is the question prior to the traditional duel of former Yugoslavia teams in group A. Vardar are unbeaten after six rounds with the near-optimum of 11 points on their account, while Zagreb currently hold the crucial sixth position with just two points.

Strangely enough, the defending VELUX EHF Champions League champions of Vardar have never taken a point from the Croatian capital in four attempts in EHF competitions.

In their regional SEHA-Gazprom League, Vardar took a clear 30:25 win on home ground against Zagreb in October and the venue will provide some of the Croatian players in Vardar, such as Luka Cindric and Ivan Cupic, with a special homecoming, ahead of returning in January to join their national teammates at the Men’s EHF EURO 2018.

FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP) vs. Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER)
Sunday 12. November, 19:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

It is already the rematch of two FINAL4 contenders. Löwen arrive with an unbeaten record of four wins and two draws, while Barcelona are one point below the German champions after their defeat in Skopje, against Vardar.

Löwen are on a crazy road trip at the moment, having nine straight away matches in the German Bundesliga and VELUX EHF Champions League clashes between 15 October and 23 November without any single game on home ground.

Besides this, their Bundesliga match at Leipzig on Saturday is only 24 hours prior to the throw-off in Barcelona and they will sleep at Berlin airport, arriving in Spain six hours prior to the throw-off in Barcelona.

In contrast, the hosts have five days to recover after their 34:27 win against Encantada. The balance of both top sides in direct duels is equal by three victories each and two draws, including the 31:31 draw in this season’s opener.  The Spanish side will be missing their Slovenian right back Jure Dolenec, after the club confirmed he will have surgery on his right knee (external meniscus) and will be out for three months. The 28-year-old joined the team last summer on a five-year contract.

In Spain, Löwen will have the darkest match of their VELUX EHF Champions League experience in mind, as they let a 38:31 first-leg home victory in the 2014 quarter-finals slip from their hands to miss the VELUX EHF FINAL4 after a 31:24 defeat at Palau Blaugrana.

Additional matches:

IFK Kristianstad (SWE) vs. Orlen Wisla Plock (POL)
Saturday 11. November, 16:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

MOL-Pick Szeged (HUN) vs. HBC Nantes (FRA)
Saturday 11. November, 17:30 local time, live on ehfTV.com

GROUP B

Aalborg Handbold (DEN) vs. PGE Vive Kielce (POL)
Sunday 12. November, 16:50 local time, live on ehfTV.com

No one could guess that after six rounds, Aalborg and Kielce would both have the same number of wins (1) on their account and that the 2016 VELUX EHF Champions League winners would only be two points ahead of the Danish champions before this duel. Kielce have lost all three away matches so far, while Aalborg have taken their two points, on home ground by beating Celje.

Therefore, Kielce are under pressure, after letting huge leads slip from their hands several times already this season. Last weekend, the hosts were chanceless in Veszprem and the statistics speak against the Danes, who have lost both previous duels with Kielce so far.

MATCH OF THE WEEK: Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA) vs. Telekom Veszprém HC (HUN)
Sunday 12. November, 17:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

Twice, in 2014 and 2015, Veszprém eliminated PSG in the quarter-finals, but in May 2017 Paris struck back by beating the Hungarian record champions in the VELUX EHF FINAL4 semi-final 27:26.

The top clash of this round will bring together all the former top scorers of the VELUX EHF Champions League who are still part of the competition: Momir Ilic (Veszprém) and the PSG stars Nikola Karabatic, Mikkel Hansen and Uwe Gensheimer. These will join the current top scorer, Mate Lekai, who is also on court on Sunday.

Veszprém are still unbeaten with 11 points on their account, one ahead of the Paris side, who have already lost at Flensburg. Both contenders have the clear goal to make it to Cologne with both coaches already facing each other in a Champions League final, back in 2007, when Noka Serdarusic coached victorious side THW Kiel and Ljubomir Vranjes (Veszprém) was a player for Flensburg.

French international William Accambray will face his former team and will duel with six teammates, with whom he became World Champion in Paris last January. In total, 11 medal winners of the 2017 IHF Men’s World Championship (seven French, two Norwegians and two Slovenians) will duel in this clash of the titans.

Additional matches:

HC Meshkov Brest (BLR) vs. SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER)
Saturday 11. November, 19:30 local time, live on ehfTV.com

THW Kiel (GER) vs. RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko (SLO)
Sunday 12. November, 17:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

Author: Bjorn Pazen/amc