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09.11.2016, 18:10◄ last page     

PREVIEW: With only three points separating top and the bottom, Group C promises to be the most dramatic of all groups in the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase

Drama unfolds in a balanced Group C

After the international break, Presov pay visit to Moscow, where Slovakia drew with Russia a week ago. Montpellier travel to Skopje to play the young team of Lino Cervar which is determined to give the fans some strong home performances. La Rioja host Elverum in a rematch of two dynamic teams.

•    Two matches in Chekhov and Skopje on Thursday; in Logrono on Saturday
•    La Rioja defends top spot at home against Elverum
•    Presov pay visit to Chekhov in match between two teams on four points
•    Can Patrice Canayer men end the negative away record in Skopje?

Chekhovskie Medvedi (RUS) vs TATRAN Presov (SVK)
Thursday 10 October, 19:00 hrs local time, live on ehftv.com

Round 6 in Group C starts in Russia, TATRAN Presov pay visit to Chekhovskie Medvedi following the 30:28 win at home against the Bears in Round 5.

Out of the three meetings, the home sides always prevailed. Only the first encounter last season in Presov was a straight forward outing for Slovakian Champions, so cards are set for a close match.

The international break saw a number of players in action from both teams. The Bears had six players in the Russian national team, TATRAN three in the Slovakian national team, three in Ukrainian and the most successful one, Jakub Hrstka, scored 15 goals for the Czech Republic.

It will be interesting to see how quickly the Bears will find their rhythm, as they did not play a competitive match since the meeting in Presov. The Slovakian side beat Gorenje Velenje on Tuesday 34:30 to stay on a positive note before travelling to Russia. However, the Slovak side played without Radoslav Pekar and Viacheslav Sadovyi, their main defensive duo.

Tatran’s main firepower will stand on shoulders of Oliver Rabek and Jakub Hrstka. Both are in fantastic form. The Czech left wing belongs to the top 3 scorers in the competition with 32 goals. In the Presov meeting in October he scored nine goals. With Oliver’s seven, this is more than half of the whole team.

The Russians have lost only one out of five matches last term in front of own fans. Vladimir Maximov aims to leave out the inconsistency they have shown during this year’s campaign.

When Russia and Slovakia met recently in the EHF EURO 2018 Qualification, the Slovakians captured a last minute draw 31:31.

HC Metalurg (MKD) vs Montpellier HB (FRA)
Thursday, 10 November, 18:45 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

The French powerhouse is back in the contest for the top spot after grabbing four crucial points in home matches against Chekhovskie Medvedi and Metalurg. Patrice Canayer now faces a more difficult task to end the negative record away. Montpellier have lost both away CL ties. Trailing by one point to La Rioja, Montpellier need a win to stay in touch with the Logrono team.

Why is it so difficult for Montpellier to be successful away from home? Patrice Canayer explains:

“For the youngsters in the team it is a sign of immaturity. This makes these games a little more difficult to master. The four away games we lost, we lost them by one goal. This means that the gap is not so huge.”

Metalurg are boosted by the biggest win of the season, 36:22 against Izvidac in the SEHA League. The Macedonian side won both their previous home Champions League fixtures and they will count heavily on the support of the fans again.

“The crowd will certainly be important and we are ready to pull off a surprise. When we played great against Veszprém and La Rioja, then why can’t we play well against Montpellier,” said Nemanja Obradovic.

Patrice Canayer knows about the strength Metalurg pose at home. “This is a team with a lot of talented young players and very physical team. At home, they play physically and engaged. Us, we must show consistent performance and keep up with them."

His counterpart Lino Cervar showed lot of respect towards the opposition, but also revealed a plan: “Montpellier have Slovenia and Lithuania internationals, who perfectly fit together with the young and experienced players in the roster. We are sure that their ambitions are always the highest.

This is a huge challenge for our young team. Each player must be one hundred per cent focused. Home court will certainly be an advantage. We showed it against La Rioja. You know, when you expect a little, you gain a little. We must get the best of ourselves and be an equal opponent."

La Rioja (ESP) vs Elverum handball (NOR)
Saturday, 12 November, 18:30 hrs local time, live on efhtv.com

Round 6 in Group C concludes on Saturday evening in Logrono, where the leaders host the surprise of the season, Elverum. With just two points separating the teams, taking points from the game will have an impact on the overall standings.

In the first match of the two in Norway, La Rioja decided the game at the very end. It was a game of comebacks, very intense, speedy and physical from both sides. Jota Gonzalez showed his coaching master class as he fielded almost the entire bench, with twelve players scoring at least a goal.

Defensive tactics varied from 6-0 to 5-1 depending on the situation in the match. The usual strong wing play and fast counter attack made the difference for the Spanish side.

Elverum suffered their first home defeat, yet they prove to be good travellers this term. In Skopje, they lost by single goal and in Presov they grabbed all points after a 27:25 win. However, they come to Palacio de los Deportes de La Rioja where it is almost impossible to win. Out of nine competitive matches played this season, La Rioja have lost at home only ASOBAL league clash against Barcelona.

Inoue Langaro was named the MVP with eight goals in Elverum. With 30 goals, he is also the top scorer in the Spanish side. Interestingly, productive wingers of both teams, Tamas Ivancsik and Angel Fernandez both scored 24 goals so far in the campaign.

Two dynamic teams meet in Logrono. The innovative Michael Apelgren style proves successful so far, yet playing La Rioja away is the toughest test so far. More options on the bench for Jota Gonzalez was one of the keys in the final minutes of their first outing. But should Morten Nergaard have his day once again and Tamas Ivancsik be on fire, Elverum stand a solid chance.

TEXT: Tomas Cunik / bc

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