|08.11.2016, 09:20||◄ last page|
GROUP A PREVIEW: Four matches on four different days as Barcelona travel to Paris while Veszprém, Kiel and Flensburg face rather low hurdles.
True test for Barcelona in Paris
The international break for the EHF EURO 2018 Qualification is over so the curtain rises again for the VELUX EHF Champions League with the last four rounds in 2016.
In terms of preparation, things are getting easier for coaches and players as all teams will face only two different opponents. The re-matches of Round 6 will be the final Champions League games in Round 9, at the beginning of December.
Round 6 in Group A will start already on Wednesday and will see four matches on four different days.
Orlen Wisla Plock (POL) vs THW Kiel (GER)
One year ago, THW caused Plock a terrible night in their arena, beating the Polish runners-up by 37:23. Statistics also speak against the ‘Oilers’ as the only time they beat Kiel in eight matches so far was in 2005.
But the team of former Bundesliga player Piotr Przybecki have proved their home strength with their draw against Veszprém - but still, this is so far the only point on their account.
Before their three matches in a row against Flensburg (in the Bundesliga and twice in the VELUX EHF Champions League), Kiel are eager to defend their third rank in Group A. But the three-time Champions League winners earned just one away win so far this season - at Bjerringbro.
Kadetten Schaffhausen (SUI) vs SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER)
Kadetten are the only Champions League team without any point on their account - but they hope for a good omen against Flensburg: The last time both teams met, the Swiss champions sensationally eliminated SG in the semi-finals of the 2009/10 EHF Cup thanks to a 24:21 win at home.
But on Thursday, Flensburg as the current Bundesliga leaders with nine wins in nine matches, are the favourites despite a quite shaky international start. Five points after five matches is not what coach Ljubomir Vranjes and his side were expecting.
Prior to the Champions League derbies with Kiel, Flensburg want to prove their ability to make it to Cologne again.
Schaffhausen know their only chance to make it to the Last 16 lies on home ground. Maybe the Swiss internationals in the Kadetten squad have gained confidence from their strong performances with the national team in the EHF EURO 2018 Qualification against Slovenia and Germany.
Telekom Veszprém (HUN) vs Bjerringbro-Silkeborg (DEN)
Due to their previous dominant performances at home (they won all matches since April 2013), Veszprém are in the favourites’ role against the Danish champions.
After four straight matches on home ground, this away match will be a true test for BSV.
Having the two duels against PSG ahead, Veszprém will try hard to keep their unbeaten home record, while Bjerringbro can play without any pressure as they have already four points on their account.
Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA) vs FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP)
Paris have their ‘weeks of truth’ ahead with four top clashes in a row, twice against Barcelona and twice against Veszprém.
With four wins, they would top the group prior to the winter break, which is the clear target of coach Noka Serdarusic. After their opening defeat at Kiel, PSG won the next four group matches.
But Barcelona are in a top form. The Catalans just celebrated their 100th straight win in the Spanish league and top Group A after five wins in five matches, including those against Kiel, Flensburg and Veszprém.
PSG stars Mikkel Hansen and Nikola Karabatic will face their former team mates as well as coach Xavi Pascual, who opened a new chapter of success as coach of the Romanian national team, which was the big surprise in the EHF EURO 2018 Qualification by beating Belarus and Poland.
On the other hand, Cedric Sorhaindo, Dika Mem and Timothey N’guessan will face a huge number of French national team mates, with whom they just started their EHF EURO 2018 Qualification with two wins.
The two powerhouses of European club handball only duelled twice so far, and Barcelona won both encounters in the 2013/14 group phase. In the previous season, Paris and Barcelona were the winners of their respective groups and thus skipped the Last 16.
TEXT: Björn Pazen / ew