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21.10.2016, 16:29◄ last page     

GROUP C PREVIEW: Round 5 will mark the halfway point in Groups C and D this weekend as it slowly turns into crunch time for many of sides

Sea of white awaits La Rioja; Montpellier looking to maintain form

It all starts in Eastern Slovakia, where Presov need to catch the breath against Medvedi. Battle for the top spot in the group brings together surprise package of the season, Elverum, and traditional powerhouse, La Rioja. Montpellier can confirm they are back to winning ways against Metalurg, who raised their heads against strong Spaniards.

• Alexey Peskov and Roman Tsarapkin may line up against their fromer club in Presov
• Presov determined to bounce back despite injury woes
• Elverum playing La Rioja for top spot in the group
• Metalurg looking for the first away win of the season in Montpellier with Darko Arsic in fine form

TATRAN Presov (SVK) vs Chekhovskie Medvedi (RUS)
Saturday 22nd October, 16:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

Last season Chekhovskie Medvedi were one of the two teams Tatran Presov managed to beat.

The Czech left wing Jakub Hrstka scored eight back then, and lot is expected from him also on Saturday. Being selected into top 7 of Round 4 and with 23 goals being in top 5 top scorers of the competition, Jakub is the main firepower of the Eastern Slovakian side.

“There are only two options. Either we win and stay in the race for the top two spots or we loose and we are out. We have to be concentrated in the attack as well as in defence for the whole 60 minutes,“ said Lukas Urban ahead of the match.

“Despite the quality of the opposition and number of injuries we have, I believe we will break the losing streak and take two important points,“ added coach Rastislav Trtik. Frankly, Presov lost last three matches despite winning at half-time.

For various reasons, Dominik Krok and Alexey Peskov are doubtful for the game against Medvedi. Radovan Pekar did not feature in the midweek action against Zagreb either. For Alexey Peskov the match has a specific taste as he spent much of his career in the Russian club. Roman Tsarapkin, the young Russian left back came to Presov directly from Chekhov. 

Chekhov will be with the same 16 players that played in Montpellier. The Bears will spend 13 hours on the road to reach their hotel in Presov.
Unlike the number of changes in pre-season for Presov, Bears' team has been together for three years. In the midweek Russian Superleague game, Medvedi won the Moscow derby having rested some players.

Elverum Handball (NOR) vs Naturhouse La Rioja (ESP)

Sunday 23rd October, 18:15 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

Few would have thought before the beginning of the group phase, that this is going to be the match for the first place after 4 Rounds. This is the first ever match up between the Norwegian and the Spanish clubs in the European top flight.

La Rioja sit on top of the group, but Elverum are close with both on five points. The Norwegian side need only two points in remaining six matches to rewrite the history of achieving the best result in their short European history.

The surprise of the season were defeated in only one match this term -- a close loss to Metalurg 18:17. Michael Apelgren is enjoying the elite competition with his unorthodox handball and tactical shake ups.

"We have players who are able to do those small but special things in the deciding moments of the match. We had these match winners, so I am really happy. I am really proud of our team," said Michael Apelgren after the exciting win in Presov.  

Club is organising "a white sea" in the stands with up to 1,500 white shirts being available. The official website asks fans to dress up in white colours to show the united strength of Elverum on the court as well as in the stands in Terningen Arena.

La Rioja pay visit to Elverum after being defeated by one man in Skopje – Darko Arsic. On Sunday, there will be another great man between the posts against them, Morten Nergaard.

Quality is on the Spanish side, but we haven't seen enough to say Elverum can beat anybody in this group, especially at home?

Elverum will not wait for the opposition and will be determined to show their qualities in front of the all-white crowd. Wingers should lead the score lists on both sides, with Tamas Ivancsik and Angel Fernandez having crucial roles in their teams.

The fast dynamic handball of the Norwegian champions will clash with the counter attacking style of La Rioja. Match should showcase lot of goals, with some exceptional counter attacks and interesting tactical variations.

Montpellier HB (FRA) vs HC Metalurg (MKD)
Sunday 23rd October, 18:45 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

Can Montpellier pick up the momentum from their win against Medvedi? Is Metalurg going to prevail after gaining the confidence with a win over leaders La Rioja?

The men in orange and blue are struggling this season. With the new singings more expectations were on their sholders. 

Statistically, Metalurg are very bad travellers. This season from four away matches in all the competitions,  they lost all four. On top of that, Montpellier are traditionally very strong home side. Played four, won four this term. 

One of the biggest tasks of the hosts will be to find a way to beat Darko Arsic. The top two saves in Round 4 belong to Darko Arsic. Does the Serbian goalkeeper, who joined Metalurg this summer from Metaloplastika Sabac, have some secreat weapons left for Montpellier?

“I look forward to winning and I am thrilled that I became part of this young determined team, who has the best crowd in the world. There are no words that would describe the happiness and satisfaction I felt after the game," he said after his outstanding performance against La Rioja.

Coach Lino Cervar praised his young team, despite the absence of Mladenovic and Marcec.

“The defense led by Arsic was excellent throughout the match, and that Milos Dragas claimed responsibility in the attack was crucial at the end of the match. After the loss of Martin Marcec and Nemanja Mladenovic were forced to change the concept of our game. We had to alternate with Dragas and Taleski in the back court. It worked out well."

Montpellier looked to finally find their form in Round 4. “We repositioned Valentin (Porte) in defence, which gave us more stability. In attack, we seemed to be doing well with Valentin and Jure Dolenec, rather than using them alternatively," explained Patrice Canayer, head coach.

“I liked the reaction of players after defeat in Elverum. The players showed their character. We need to continue like this." However, the French side lost the midweek clash against St. Raphael in the league to only highlight their ongoing struggles. It was a step back for Patrice Canayer, but also a lesson they need to take.

Montpellier are favourites of the group, but should Darko Arsic show another fantastic peformance supported by their traditionally solid defence, Metalurg could turn the game into a dramatic affair. The hosts are incosistent, despite recent improvement; the cards are set for a thrilling game.

TEXT: Tomas Cunik / bc

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