GROUP C PREVIEW: Group frontrunners Montpellier visit Spain looking for their second win, against La Rioja, who lost only one home match last Champions League season.
Tough test awaits leaders in Spain, high-flying Metalurg visit Presov
The first VELUX EHF matchday brought plenty of drama in Group C – a draw in Russia and a last-minute win for HC Metalurg over Elverum Handball proved there are no easy opponents in this group.
In Round 2, Montpellier HB have to confirm their status as leaders when they travel to Logrono, where Naturhouse La Rioja will be hard to beat, while TATRAN Presov hope for revenge against Metalurg after losing to the Macedonian side two weeks ago.
Elverum were dissapointed after a narrow defeat in Skopje in Round 1, but are ready to fight back against Chekhovskie Medvedi.
TATRAN Presov (SVK) vs HC Metalurg (MKD)
Saturday, 15:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV
The hosts are hungry for revenge in the VELUX EHF Champions League after losing their SEHA League fixture 21:27 to Metalurg in Skopje two weeks back.
Should they equal their first half performance from Montpellier in Round 1 of the Champions League, with recovered Radovan Pekar back in the squad, they stand a chance.
However, they must be able to stop Filip Taleski, who was scoring machine for Metalurg with a tally of 13 against Elverum. Presov are already familiar with Taleski‘s work, as the left back scored seven against them in their first match this season.
Saturday’s match is the first time these teams have met in the Champions League – previously they have faced each other only in SEHA, with a record of 4:3 in favour of TATRAN.
Naturhouse La Rioja (ESP) vs Montpellier HB (FRA)
Saturday, 20:30 hrs local time, live on ehfTV
Jota Gonzalez’s men grabbed a point in Russia thanks to a draw against Chekhovskie, but La Rioja are traditionally an even stronger home side – last season, they lost only one group stage game at home.
The Spanish side enter the Round 2 match against the current group leaders without Javier Garcia Rubio, who injured his ankle last week in Russia.
In Round 1 Montpellier were strong in defence against Presov, with well-executed variations backed by goalkeeper Vincent Gerard, but coach Patrice Canayer insists there is still plenty of room for improvement.
The French team will count on a solid performance in defence again on Saturday, and though they recorded a win in their opener, the match against TATRAN showed they need to work on their efficiency in attack.
La Rioja and Montpellier have never met before in EHF competitions.
Elverum Handball (NOR) vs Chekhovskie Medvedi (RUS)
Sunday, 18:15 hrs local time, live on ehfTV
Ask Elverum players about their nightmares of late and they will all mention one name: Filip Taleski, who top scored against them in their Round 1 defeat against Metalurg.
The Norwegian squad can comfort themselves with the fact that there is no Taleski in Chekhovskie’s line-up, but the hosts for Sunday’s clash will instead have to stop the Russian side’s current top scorer Kirill Kotov.
Elverum played defensively well against Metalurg, as did the opposition, while Chekhovskie coach Vladimir Maximov was not happy with how his team approached the game against La Rioja once in the lead.
The Round 2 match will be the first ever between the Norwegian and Russian champions, and Chekhovskie enter after an unbeaten run in their last five games in all competitions.
TEXT: Tomas Cuncik / cg