Nantes and Dinamo are looking to continue their winning ways
Before the head-to-head game scheduled on the 22nd of October in Bucharest, Nantes and Dinamo are hoping to come undefeated from the next two games. The group’s undefeated teams are both playing at home this Sunday, with the French side hosting surprising package ABC/UMinho, who are coming after an impressive win against TTH Holstebro. On the other side, Dinamo will be poised to stop Besiktas, after the Turkish team matched their worst ever defeat in the VELUX EHF Champions League, a 14-goal drubbing at the hands of Nantes.
• The French side and the Romanian champions are the only two undefeated teams in the group
• Ramazan Done (Besiktas), with 14 goals, and Magnus Bramming (Holstebro), with 13 goals, are the group’s top scorers
• Dinamo’s last two games in the Romanian league ended in a draw and a one-goal win against moderate opponents
• All teams recorded wins in their domestic leagues this week, except Motor, who did not have a game scheduled
HBC Nantes (FRA) vs ABC/UMinho (POR)
Sunday, 9 October, 16:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com
It has been a dream start of the season for HBC Nantes in all competitions, with four wins and only a draw, against Motor Zaporozhye in their maiden game in the VELUX EHF Champions League. The French side is currently leading their domestic league, and their group in the European top competition and are aiming to build on their amazing start against ABC/UMinho.
The Portuguese side has been the surprise package of the group, alongside Dinamo Bucuresti, managing an unexpected win against TTH Holstebro in the last game, 32:27. With every team in the group earning at least one point in their first two matches, every game could be decisive and any point gained is of the utmost importance.
Therefore, Nantes’ players are gathering attention, with Braga keeping alive their momentum, after a 41:25 drubbing of Arsenal Devesa in the Portuguese league. However, the Portuguese side has been dealt a blow in their domestic game, as line player Ricardo Pesqueira received a ball in his face and is questionable for Sunday.
“The game against Besiktas was a very important one for me, I scored my first goals. I will not forget the feeling. We searched a lot for a place in the most important competition, and the hard work paid off. Now we have to be focused and we must not lose our home advantage”, said Olivier Nyokas, Nantes’ 30-year-old left back, who scored four goals against Besiktas, for the club’s website.
The French side -- who honoured the wildcard received this season with a 33:19 win against Besiktas, the Turkish side’s worst ever result in the VELUX EHF Champions League -- has a clean bill of health and are on a high after winning the French StarLigue game against Saran, 31:27, on Wednesday.
HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR) vs TTH Holstebro (DEN)
Sunday, 9 October, 16:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com
Life in the European top competition is not easy, even for an experienced Danish team that has been a constant presence in European cups. TTH Holstebro’s start in the VELUX EHF Champions League has been marred by surprising results, as the Danish runners-up snatched a point with a late goal against Dinamo and were shocked by ABC/UMinho in their second game.
It does not get easier for Holstebro, with an away game in Zaporozhye looming, where Motor has not lost in the group phase of the VELUX EHF Champions League since February 2015.
However, the Ukrainian side’s potential has been marred by injuries, with last season’s top scorer, Barys Pukhouski, being questionable for Sunday’s game.
The Belarusian centre back, who score 90 goals for Motor in last year’s European top competition, has a knee injury sustained in the opener against Nantes and could not play in the game against Dinamo.
“While Barys is training with us, it is highly improbable that he will be in the form needed to play against Holstebro on Sunday”, said Nikolay Stepanets, Motor’s coach.
Another two powerful backs, Sergii Burka and Lev Tcelishchev, are definitely out, which means that Motor will have to find different solutions for scoring goals.
Holstebro will have to patch up things in defense, with the second highest total of goals concided after two matches in the competition.
“We have to work harder and harder, limit our technical faults and try better in defense”, said Patrick Westerholm, Holstebro’s coach.
Dinamo Bucuresti (ROU) vs Besiktas Mogaz HT (TUR)
Sunday, 9 October, 17:15 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com
Still undefeated in this season – seven wins and two draws – Dinamo is riding high and the “Red Dogs” are eyeing another win in the VELUX EHF Champions League, after the 35:31 one against Motor Zaporozhye, the first one for the Romanian side after a 11-year drought.
However, the Romanian champions have disappointed in the Romanian League, with a draw against CS Adrian Petrea Resita, 32:32, and a narrow win against newly-promoted CSU Suceava, 29:28, in the last week.
With a playoff system and still currently leading the table in their domestic league, Dinamo’s focus is slowly shifting to Europe and a home win against Besiktas is a must if the “Red Dogs” want to progress to the playoffs.
Right back Jakob Vrankovic, who scored eight goals in the win against Motor, was suspended in the Romanian League game against Suceava and earned a much needed rest, but will be back against Besiktas, as Dinamo will certainly look to their back line for goals, like they did against the Ukrainian champions.
Dinamo will count again on their home support, with their fanatic end being one of the main advantages Eliodor Voica’s team counts on.
The Turkish side have already matched their best performance in a VELUX EHF Champions League season, one win in the group phase, after their first game against ABC/UMinho, 33:31. But Besiktas’ ambition is bigger this season and the Turkish champions are poised to erase their drubbing last week, 33:19, at the hands of Nantes.
Besiktas have won their game against Antalyaspor, 36:25, on Wednesday, but Mufit Arin, their coach, is not happy with the performance.
“We let in some easy goals and our defense was not top notch. If we want to progress, if we want to win games, we have to improve that,” said Arin to the club’s website.