Besiktas and ABC throw off the new season
On paper, teams from France and Denmark should be favourites in an European competition.
However, HBC Nantes and TTH Holstebro are both at their first game in the VELUX EHF Champions League, therefore they should be moderate favourites in their games against Motor Zaporozhye and Dinamo București. The season will kick off in style with a game between Besiktas Mogaz HT and Portuguese champions ABC/UMinho Braga.
Besiktas Mogaz HT (TUR) vs ABC/UMinho (POR)
Wednesday, 21 September, 19:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com
After a long wait, the VELUX EHF Champions League throws off in style, in what promises to be a carnivalesque setting in Izmit. Besiktas are making their comeback after a sole win last season in the toughest group of the competition.
This season, the Turkish giants will be competing for one of the first two places which ensure a play-off berth for the Last 16 phase. But the competition is far away from easy, therefore Besiktas need to enjoy a winning start in order to achieve their objectives.
The motto is clear and has already been repeated inside the team, after a winning start in which Besiktas won two games, including the Turkish Supercup against Goztepe: “The VELUX EHF Champions League is a totally different competition and we have to be better than ever”.
Müfit Arın, Besiktas’ coach, is confident that his team will prevail: “There is no such thing as an easy game in Europe, but with our fans’ support, I think we can play good and enjoy positive results”.
But their first opponents of the season, ABC/UMinho Braga have already played in the competition, winning the Qualifying Tournament organised in Bregenz, after an impressive game against the hosts, in which the Portuguese prevailed 33:32.
The Portuguese side have not played for 15 years in the VELUX EHF Champions League, but have plied their trade in the EHF Challenge Cup, which they won last season.
“After being part of two straight Challenge Cup Finals and winning the Portuguese championship, the club, and the players have the chance to express themselves on the highest European level. Our objective is to progress to the next phase”, said Carlos Resende, Braga’s coach.
HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR) vs HBC Nantes (FRA)
Thursday, 22 September, 18:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com
It will be a special game for last year’s EHF Cup finalist, as the French side will make their debut in the VELUX EHF Champions League. Having been awarded a wild card for the group phase, Nantes will ply their trade in the European top competition, but their first trip will be nothing short of difficult.
Motor is at their fourth consecutive season in the group phase and will try to emulate their last season’s performance, when they went all the way to the Last 16 and lost only once on their home court in Brovary, against future finalists MKB/MVM Veszprem.
It will be the third game of the season for Nantes, who already played in the Trophee des Champions in France, winning the semi-final against St. Raphael, 29:28, but losing the final against PSG Handball by a whooping 9-goal margin, 26:35.
“The game against PSG was an important one for us, because it was played against one of the greatest teams in Europe. We are playing in the VELUX EHF Champions League this season and we will face powerful teams”
“Maybe the opponents will not be as powerful as PSG in the first phase, but we learnt some important lessons after this loss”, said Thierry Anti, Nantes’ coach, after the defeat against the French champions.
On the other side, Motor have only two competitive games under their belt, but both of them were wins. The Ukrainian side won at their debut in the local championship, 36:28, against ZNTU-ZAS, while the second game brought Motor the Ukrainian Supercup, with a 31:21 win against ZTR Zaporozhye.
TTH Holstebro (DEN) vs Dinamo Bucuresti (ROU)
Sunday, 25 September, 18:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com
It was a long a difficult road, but Dinamo București is back in the VELUX EHF Champions League, after a 11-year hiatus. The Romanian side was closer to bankruptcy than to coming back into the elite, as they found new homes in Brașov and Călărași during the last five years.
However, coming back to Bucharest was the first step to a new era and Dinamo won their first title last season, after a tough battle with CSM București.
But Dinamo will have their work cut out in the new season, having to make-do with a 18-man roster in both the VELUX EHF Champions League and the Romanian League.
The Romanian champions improved their roster with two Iranian brothers, Sajad and Allahkaram Esteki and with Romanian sharpshooters Alin Șania and Bogdan Criciotoiu, two experienced backs that will definitely improve Dinamo’s woes on the 9-meter line.
Their first trip in this season is to Denmark, where TTH Holstebro, a newbie in the European competition will be waiting for a winning start.
The "Red Dogs” enjoyed a winning start of the season, with five wins in their five matches, including two wins against rivals CSM București, one of them in the Romanian Supercup, and will hope to continue their winning ways in Denmark.
”We concluded the first part of our season, now we are focusing on the VELUX EHF Champions League. I am happy with what we achieved, but we have to be more focused in the next matches”, said Dinamo’s coach, Eliodor Voica.
Dinamo’s mission will not be an easy one, as TTH Holstebro is targeting the competition’s next phase in their maiden voyage. The Danish runner-up from last season will be making a home debut after two wins in the local league and one unexpected defeat in the Last 16 of the Danish Cup.
"We are not fully gelled as a team, but we need to be better. We are delighted to play in the VELUX EHF Champions League and the European competition is one of our top objectives this season. I hope to win as many points as possible”, said Patrick Westerholm, Holstebro’s coach.