Nantes expect to extend their winning streak against Dinamo
In their maiden season in the VELUX EHF Champions League, Nantes are still undefeated after four rounds and are looking to improve their three-win streak in Romania against a raucous crowd that will support Dinamo.
After their worst loss in the competition, Holstebro are looking to save their season against Besiktas, while Motor aim to protect their home court against ABC
• Only four teams have yet to win a match in this season’s VELUX EHF Champions League and Holstebro is one of them
• With a negative goal difference and the worst attack in the group, Besiktas are currently in the second place, one point ahead of Dinamo and ABC
• Surprisingly, ABC/UMinho have the best attack in the competition after four rounds, with 130 goals scored
Besiktas Mogaz HT (TUR) vs TTH Holstebro (DEN)
Saturday, 15:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com
For the first time in their history in the VELUX EHF Champions League, Besiktas have managed to stay undefeated for two games in a row.
The Turkish side did not impress attacking wise, having score the lowest number of goals in the group, 101, after four rounds, but their resilience, defensive prowess and grit helped them secure five points.
“Our purpose in this group is to surprise the other teams. I think we did just that against Motor and I hope to continue on this path,” said Mufit Arin, Besiktas’ coach.
The Turkish side is on the up, with another away win in the Turkish league, 32:23, against Goztepe.
The “Eagles” have a unique chance to win two games in a row against Holstebro, in a paramount game for the Danish rookies.
Alongside Wisla Plock, Kadetten Schaffhausen and HC Prvo plinarsko drustvo Zagreb, Holstebro completes the panel of teams that are still without a win after four games in the top European competition.
The Danish side has started the season with a draw against Dinamo, but recorded three consecutive losses, and have the worst defensive record in the Champions League, with 133 goals conceded.
Their woes continued in the domestic league, where Holstebro lost against 8th placed SonderjyskE, 31:29.
“We did not stand a chance against Nantes in the last round, but I think we identified where we made the mistakes and we tried to correct them.”
“During this week, we had very good training sessions and I am confident before the game in Turkey,” said Patrick Westerholm, Holstebro’s coach.
The Danish side’s main advantage will still be Magnus Bramming, as the fast winger is the top goal scorer in the competition, with 32 goals in four games.
Dinamo Bucuresti (ROU) vs HBC Nantes (FRA)
Saturday, 17:30 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com
“It would be amazing to finish undefeated the first five rounds of the VELUX EHF Champions League. In general, a team has to win all their home matches and whoever wins the most away ones wins the group.”
It sounds easy, but it really is not, as Nantes showed in their Round 3 game against ABC/UMinho, when the Portuguese side enjoyed an amazing comeback and tied the game, only for Nantes to win the two points, thanks to a flawless finish.
However, left back Rock Feliho’s words will surely resonate with his teammates, after the French side are still unbeaten and are looking for their fourth consecutive win against Bucurest.
But Dinamo are still undefeated on their home court, partly thanks to their amazing fans, who helped the team power to a win against Motor and overcome a five-goal deficit to draw against Besiktas.
The Romanian side had little answer for ABC last week and fell into the fourth spot in the group, but are vying to get back on track and fight for the first two places.
“It has been a very difficult period for us, with tough opponents, a hectic schedule and long trips. However, we will try to do our best in the next matches and we hope to win the game against Nantes,” read an open letter to the Dinamo’s fans, posted on the club’s website.
The “Red Dogs” will turn again to Sajad Esteki, the Iranian sharpshooter, who scored 11 goals against ABC and was chosen the top left back in last round’s “Best 7”.
However, Dinamo’s back court, one of the team’s biggest advantages in the competition, is thinned out by injuries.
Sajad Esteki has been battling heel issues, Ciprian Sandru is trying to overcome a back injury, while right back Jakob Vrankovic played through pain in Portugal with an ankle sprain.
Both teams have won the games in their respective domestic leagues on Wednesday. Nantes confirmed their second place in the French league with a 34:31 win against Nimes, while Dinamo took the provisional lead in the Romanian competition, with a 32:28 home win against Dunarea Calarasi.
HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR) vs ABC/UMinho (POR)
Saturday, 18:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com
Motor’s attempt to replicate last season’s heroics took a serious blow last week, as the Ukrainian champions lost against Besiktas, 23:22, after the Turkish side led the game from the start to the final whistle.
Without winning an away game yet, Motor is looking again to improve their ranking thanks to flawless games in Kharkov.
“We have a strong team and it is hard to analyze who is going to qualify after only four games.”
“Besiktas lost against Nantes by a 14-goal margin, but drew against Dinamo and beat Motor. Dinamo won against Motor, but lost against ABC. So everything is wide open,” said Aidenas Malasinskas, Motor’s centre back.
However, the Ukraianian side will have to double down on defence and stop ABC’s free flowing attacking play, if they want to continue their undefeated streak at home.
Surprising as it may seem, the Portuguese champions have the best attack after four rounds in the Champions League, with 130 goals, one more than Nantes and three more than title holders KS Vive Tauron Kielce.
The Portuguese side will try to bounce back after their second defeat in the domestic league, 24:22, against bitter rivals FC Porto, when their offensive display diminished considerably.
“It was a tough game and a tough one to lose, but we do not have time to dwell on mistakes, we need to get back on the field and win against Motor,” said coach Carlos Resende.