Big clash in Barcelona, PSG and Veszprém favourites on home turf
Following the close results and exciting matches in Round 1, the favourites roles seem to be clear ahead of at least two matches of VELUX EHF Champions League Group A this weekend.
All eyes will be on the Palau Blaugrana on Saturday, where FC Barcelona Lassa will host THW Kiel in the ehfTV.com Match of the Week.
Telekom Veszprém (HUN) vs Kadetten Schaffhausen (SUI)
Saturday, 17:30 hrs local time, live on ehfTV
The first Group A match of Round 2 will be a kind of homecoming for the second best scorer of Round 1: Before signing for Kadetten Schaffhausen, Gabor Csaszar played for Veszprém and PSG, so the Hungarian international will face both of his former sides in the group phase.
In Round 1, even eleven goals from the prolific playmaker were not enough to prevent Kadetten from a 24:25 home defeat against Bjerringbro.
Kadetten and Karacic part ways
The Round 1 defeat had additional consequences for new arrival Ivan Karacic, as the club dismissed him with immediate effect. His successor is Swiss international Albin Alili.
“We internally discuss even more personal changes,” the club stated in a press release, after the loss as well as unexpected results in the domestic league.
Veszprém unbeaten on home ground since April 2013
As the lights are already flashing red at Schaffhausen, Veszprém are still disappointed after giving away a win 10 seconds before the final buzzer at Flensburg (24:24).
“I am sad about this result, but it again proved the equality of all teams in this group,” said Veszprém coach Javier Sabate.
His team, which has not lost any home Champions League matches since April 2013 when they were defeated in the quarter-final against Kiel, is the clear favourite against Kadetten. In both previous encounters (semi-finals in the 2007/08 Cup Winners’ Cup) Veszprém were unbeaten (28:28, 30:24).
FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP) vs THW Kiel (GER), ehfTV.com Match of the Week
Saturday, 19:30 hrs local time, live on ehfTV
The next clash of the titans in this hammer group is a re-match of two EHF Champions League Finals: While Barcelona were victorious in 2000, Kiel took revenge in 2010 at the first ever VELUX EHF FINAL4.
It is also the duel of the two best teams in the all-time ranking of the EHF Champions League. Barcelona top the ranking with 383:107 points after 245 Champions League matches ahead of Kiel, on 352:130 points from 241 matches.
The sides count eleven EHF Champions League titles between them, as Barcelona are the record winners with eight trophies, followed by Kiel (3) – and both are playing their 20th EHF Champions League season.
Kiel eliminated Barcelona in April
Another parallel is the start of the Champions League season: Kiel beat PSG 28:27, while Barcelona took a 28:23 opening win at Plock.
Saturday will be the 22nd duel between Kiel and Barca on international ground – and the record is fully equal with 10 wins each and one draw. In the previous season, Kiel eliminated Barcelona in the quarter-finals, while in the 2010/11 season it was exactly opposite.
Kiel claimed their two past wins at Palau Blaugrana in group matches, but have never won at the ‘theatre of handball dreams’ in a knock-out stage match.
Top talents in the focus
Both teams signed young guns prior to this season. Kiel’s 19-year-old top talents Lukas Nilsson and Nikola Bilyk already had a big impact in the opening match, finishing as the German team’s top scorers.
For Barcelona, Saturday’s game will be something special for left backs Filip Jicha and Wael Jallouz, as both played for THW before.
Bjerringbro-Silkeborg (DEN) vs SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER)
Sunday, 16:50 hrs local time, live on ehfTV
A whole region is on a high ahead of Bjerringbro’s first Champions League home match since 17 March 2013, when mighty FC Barcelona took a 32:26 win in the Last 16.
Flensburg with a number of Danes
After a three-year absence in this competition, the Danish champions started their campaign with an away win at Schaffhausen, and now take the court with no pressure against the 2014 Champions League winners.
Danish fans will see up to seven of their countrymen in Flensburg’s squad, including Olympic gold medallists Lasse Svan and Henrik Toft Hansen.
Knudsen and Rasmussen face former teammates
Bjerringbro team captain Michael V. Knudsen and goalkeeper Sören Rasmussen will face their former teammates, as both have played for Flensburg before.
The German team hope for another great performance from their French Olympic silver medallist Kentin Mahe, who secured the draw against Veszprém with nine goals including the last-second shot for the final score of 24:24.
Though both clubs are nearly neighbours and have a long international tradition, they have never faced each other in an official match before.
Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA) vs Orlen Wisla Plock (POL)
Sunday, 17:30 hrs local time, live on ehfTV
After the defeat at Kiel in Round 1, Paris should claim their 35th Champions League win in their 62nd match in this competition on Sunday.
PSG are unbeaten on home ground with a balance of 10 wins and two draws since November 2014, their last defeat being 25:27 in the group phase against Kiel.
The French champions played well in their opener at Kiel and were close to an away win, but even 10 goals from newcomer Uwe Gensheimer were not enough. On the other hand, Plock were defeated by Barcelona on home ground in their first Champions League game of the season.
Plock and PSG also duelled in the group phase last season, and PSG took two wins (29:24, 27:22).
Corrales meets his future club
After his brilliant performance in Round 1 against Barcelona, Plock goalkeeper Rodrigo Corrales will face his future club in Round 2, as the Spaniard will join PSG this summer.