Holstebro hope for first win against group leaders
HBC Nantes and Dinamo Bucuresti aim to continue their unbeaten streaks, Besiktas Mogaz HT and ABC/UMinho hope to capitalise on the home-court advantage and TTH Holstebro look for their first win of the VELUX EHF Champions League 2016/17 when they host the group frontrunners.
• Nantes and Dinamo are the only undefeated teams in the group, but the ‘Red Dogs’ lost their first game this season on Wednesday – in the Romanian League against Constanta
• Dinamo will be without Allahkaram Esteki, who received a red card in the last second of the game against Besiktas
• Nantes have played and won three games against Holstebro in the past, two of them in 2016 in the Men’s EHF Cup
• Besiktas earned all three wins in their history in the top European competition on their home court
ABC/UMinho (POR) vs Dinamo București (ROU)
Saturday, 17:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com
With more attention in the last 10 seconds of the games against TTH Holstebro and Besiktas, Dinamo București could have been the only side in the group with three wins from the first three matches.
But the Romanian champions allowed goals in the last second of both games and are therefore currently second with four points – one less than group leaders Nantes.
Their preparation for the game against ABC has been marred by their first defeat of the season: 29:32 against HC Dobrogea Sud Constanța in the domestic competition.
An additional blow for the Romanian side for the Round 4 match is the absence of centre back Allahkaram Esteki, who is serving a suspension following a direct red card received in the last second of the draw against Besiktas last week.
“The results have shown a mixture of ambition and lack of experience at this level,” said Dinamo coach Eliodor Voica. “We need to focus more and train different scenarios for the last 30 seconds of the game, because we made some costly mistakes.
“ABC is a surprise team for me and we need to be at the top of our game for us to maintain our unbeaten streak.”
The Portuguese side are strong on the home court and recorded an impressive 32:27 win against TTH Holstebro in Braga in Round 2.
They have also stirred their opponents in both their away games so far in the 2016/17 season, as they drew level with Nantes with 16 minutes remaining only to lose the game by two goals.
Besiktas Mogaz HT (TUR) vs HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR)
Saturday, 19:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com
In their previous two seasons in the VELUX EHF Champions League, Besiktas have recorded an average of one win per season – all on the home court.
In 2016/17 the Turkish champions have already improved their record, as they won their opening game against ABC and drew against Dinamo after leading by five goals in Round 3 in București.
But Besiktas’ objective is to progress to the next phase of the competition and Mufit Arin’s side will not tread lightly when they meet Motor.
“Our objective is to improve from game to game and I think we are doing that. We played a very good game in Dinamo, it was too bad we did not take all the points. I hope to win against Motor, as our motivation will be very high,” said Besiktas’ coach Mufit Arin.
Ukrainian champions HC Motor Zaporozhye earned their first win of the season in Round 3 with a commanding performance against TTH Holstebro, and are hoping to build on their previous result on Saturday.
“Some players lack the experience of such a big competition, but we are here to learn and we can correct some mistakes,” said coach Nikolay Stepanets.
“We are here to achieve our objective and, like last season, to progress to the play-off phase. We are confident we can do that and the first step is to win against Besiktas.”
One potential obstacle for Motor is key centre back Barys Pukhouski’s recurring knee injury, which is still causing trouble and therefore makes him a question mark ahead of the game against Besiktas.
TTH Holstebro (DEN) vs HBC Nantes (FRA)
Sunday, 15:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com
It may seem a straightforward match-up, as Nantes are currently on the top of the group and Holstebro at the bottom without a win, but recent history suggests the French side should not think of themselves as easy winners in Denmark.
The two teams clashed already in 2016 in the Men’s EHF Cup, with Nantes winning both games – 32:23 in France and 28:27 in Denmark.
However, Nantes have not enjoyed effortless wins of late, requiring a big effort in the last 10 minutes to beat ABC/UMinho 35:33 last Sunday.
“We did not have good defence against ABC, but produced some very good attacking play,” said Nantes’ line player Nicolas Tournat, who scored eight goals against ABC. “We have to play three games a week, but we cannot complain. I think we have to see what we are doing good and improve in other areas.”
Holstebro’s season has been far worse than expected, as the Danish side allowed 98 goals in their first three matches, recording two losses and one draw so far.
But the optimism is there, as the Danish side won a key game against KIF Kolding Kobenhavn in the domestic league on Wednesday. Magnus Grubb Bramming, the current top goal scorer in the VELUX EHF Champions League with 23 goals, contributed 11 to that 32:30 win.
“After a slow start against Motor Zaporozhye, we picked ourselves up and managed to be competitive. We are slowly learning to adapt to the competition, but we are still not at 100%,” said the Danish team’s coach Patrick Westerholm.