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News article

1 month ago - 11/1/2018

Leading teams battle to remain top of the table

The stakes look the same in both groups of the VELUX EHF Champions League this weekend. In Group A, Barca Lassa will host PGE Vive Kielce in a battle between two of the three teams sitting on top of the group with eight points. The third Group A side with an eight-point tally, HC Vardar, will welcome Meshkov Brest. Meanwhile, the confrontation between Montpellier and Kristianstad will be very important in the race for a place in the next round, as both teams have yet to snatch a point this season.

The pattern is more or less the same in Group B, where Paris Saint-Germain will host MOL-Pick Szeged. Both teams count the maximum of 10 points and are currently fighting for first place. While HBC Nantes will try to keep their home record perfect, RK Celje and Motor Zaporozhye will battle not to lose too much ground.

GROUP A
HC Vardar (MKD) vs HC Meshkov Brest (BLR)
Saturday 3 November, 17:30 local time, live on ehfTV.com

• After last round’s game against Kielce, Vardar lost their unbeaten status and now have the second most effective defence in Groups A and B, with 132 goals allowed
• Brest are on a three-game losing streak, while Vardar can clinch their 60th win overall in the VELUX EHF Champions League
• Vardar have only lost once in the last 14 home Champions League games – 27:28 against THW Kiel in the quarter-final phase last season
• The sides have met only twice in the premium European competition, trading home wins in the group phase two seasons ago

Telekom Veszprém HC (HUN) vs Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER)
Saturday 3 November, 17:30 local time, live on ehfTV.com

• Veszprém have won both away games by the slightest of margins after David Davis replaced Ljubomir Vranjes as coach. Saturday’s clash will mark Davis’ home debut in the VELUX EHF Champions League
• The Hungarian side are on a two-game losing streak in the domestic league, having been defeated by Tatabanya, 24:26, and archrivals MOL-Pick Szeged, 27:32
• Löwen are still trying to earn their first away win of the Champions League season, after losing against both Kielce and Vardar
• The two teams have met eight times, with Veszprém taking four wins, Löwen collecting two, and two other games ending in a stalemate

IFK Kristianstad (SWE) vs Montpellier HB (FRA)
Saturday 3 November, 19:30 local time, live on ehfTV.com

• After each enduring five consecutive losses in the first five games, Kristianstad and Montpellier are facing off in Sweden
• The French side will be trying to avoid equalling their worst ever losing run in the VELUX EHF Champions League
• Kristianstad are playing their 50th game in the top European competition and chasing their 10th overall win
• The French side have been handed a huge boost after left back Jonas Truchanovicius and left wing Michael Guigou have been deemed fit to play. Last season’s VELUX EHF FINAL4 MVP Diego Simonet will be out for at least six weeks
• Montpellier and Kristianstad have only met twice in the competition, with the French side taking both wins three years ago

Barça Lassa (ESP) vs PGE Vive Kielce (POL)
Sunday 4 November, 19:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

• The Spanish side are on a four-game winning streak and have the most effective attack in the competition, with 173 goals scored over five games, for an average of 34.6 goals per match
• Kielce are also in good shape, having won their last four games, including a 31:27 result against Vardar in the last round
• Veteran centre back Marius Jurkiewicz returned after three months just in time for Kielce’s league win, 35:18, against Azoty Pulawy, and will also feature against Barça. The 36-year-old had an infection in one of his fingers that even threatened to require amputation
• The Spanish side won three of the six matches between these sides, including two victories in the VELUX EHF FINAL4 Semi-finals. Kielce have taken only one win in Palau Blaugrana, in 2015

GROUP B
HBC Nantes (FRA) vs HC PPD Zagreb (CRO)
Saturday 3 November, 17:30 local time, live on ehfTV.com

• The teams met in the group phase last season, and both games were close – Nantes won at home by one (28:27) and Zagreb did the same when they hosted the return leg (23:22)
• Zagreb’s line player Senjamin Buric will play against his former team for the first time, with whom he spent two seasons
• At the moment, Nantes are ranked fourth with four points, while Zagreb stand two rows behind with one point less
• Zagreb have taken all their points away this season while Nantes have yet to lose one at home

Paris Saint-Germain HB (FRA) vs MOL-Pick Szeged (HUN)
Sunday 4 November, 17:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

• Both sides have the maximum of 10 points after five games
• The only time the teams faced each other in European competitions was two years ago in the quarter-finals. Paris won by three in Hungary, 30:27, before drawing at home, 30:30
• Paris coach Raul Gonzalez played under Szeged coach Juan Carlos Pastor’s orders for 10 years, from 1995 to 2005
• A lot of players around the court have Spanish connections: there are three Spanish players with Szeged and two with Paris, while Jonas Källman and Luc Abalo played together for four years in Ciudad Real, with Raul Gonzalez as an assistant coach

RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko (SLO) vs HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR)
Sunday 4 November, 17:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

• The last encounter between these teams dates to 2014. In the group phase of the Champions League, Celje won both games by three
• This will be the first time Celje recruit William Accambray takes the court with his new team for a Champions League match
• Both teams are bottom of the table in Group B, counting two points each

Match of the Week: SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) vs Skjern Handbold (DEN)
Sunday 4 November, 18:15 local time, live on ehfTV.com

• This is the second closest derby you will get in Group B, as the cities are separated by just 170 km. Only Celje and Zagreb are closer to each other
• There are strong links between the teams, as Anders Eggert and Thomas Mogensen can testify. Eggert played for a combined 10 seasons in Flensburg while Mogensen spent 11 seasons there
• The MOTW is a face-off between teams in desperate need of points. Flensburg count only four, while the Danish side have one less

Author: Adrian Costeiu / Kevin Domas / Courtney Gahan