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11.11.2016, 19:19◄ last page     

GROUP D PREVIEW: Nantes can inch closer to a playoff berth with another win against Dinamo, while Besiktas are looking for their first ever away success in the VELUX EHF Champions League

Nantes looking to extend their unbeaten run against Dinamo

Nantes have been the team to beat in the first five games of Group D, as the French side have a clean slate, with four wins and only one draw.

With two consecutive home games looming, Nantes are looking to confirm a playoff berth, with the fight for the other one intensifying, as both ABC and Motor are trying to overcome Besiktas.

•    Alongside FC Barcelona Lassa, Nantes is the only team in the VELUX EHF Champions League to maintain their unbeaten status
•    Besiktas’ five wins in the European top competition came on their home court
•    After 11 games played in the competition, Dinamo are only one goal shy of scoring their 300th goal


ABC/UMinho (POR) vs HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR)
Saturday, 12 November, 17:00hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

Three weeks ago, Motor jumped to an early lead and never looked back against ABC, with the 27:23 win improving their chances for a second consecutive season in the playoffs of the Europe’s premium competition.

However, the Ukrainian side’s all five points in the first five matches came from their home encounters and Motor is trying to improve their chances by winning points in away matches.

Therefore, the game against ABC will be a pivotal one for Motor’s future in the competition, with the Portuguese side overcoming Motor if they were to win on Saturday.

“We had a lot of players in their national teams. The Ukrainian ones lost against FYR Macedonia, but won against Iceland and that cost them a lot of energy.”

“Of course, we are proud of their win, but we are now thinking about their fitness level and we are hopeful that they will be back at 100 per cent in the game against ABC,” said Motor’s coach, Nikolay Stepanets.

While the Ukrainian side enjoyed a 31:18 win against ZNTU-ZAS, ABC had a difficult game against rivals Benfica in the Portuguese League.

It was ABC’s third defeat in the domestic league, 31:27, with the Portuguese side falling right down to the 6th place, 10 points behind Benfica and nine behind Porto, with two games in hand.

ABC will be looking to pick up the pieces and get back on track against Motor, as a loss would leave them three points behind the Ukrainian side with only four games remaining in the competition.

TTH Holstebro (DEN) vs Besiktas Mogaz HT (TUR)
Sunday, 13 November, 15:10 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

With seven points after their five matches, Besiktas have already passed their best seasons in the VELUX EHF Champions League and are now looking to the next stage.

The Turkish side has won all their three matches at home, but could only come back with one point from their away games, a feature that Besiktas is trying to improve.

It is a decisive match for Holstebro, who could be mathematically out of the competition if they were to lose against the Turkish side.

Three weeks ago, TTH had no chance in Turkey, as Besiktas powered to their biggest win in their history in the competition, 36:27, with Holstebro collapsing in the second half.

Holstebro’s woes in the last 30 minutes of the games are well-documented and happened again on Wednesday, in their Danish League game against Bjerringbro-Silkeborg.

After leading 20:13 at half-time, TTH collapsed in the last 30 minutes to lose the game 34:33.

“I think we need to be better and more focused in the second half. We cannot play better than we did in the first part and we cannot be worse than in the last 30 minutes,” said Patrick Westerholm, Holstebro’s coach.

With a win, Besiktas can strengthen their position and get closer to a playoff berth, a surprising feature in such a close group. But the Turkish side has never won an away game, so the challenge is on for the “Eagles”.

“We played against them and they are a good team, but I feel that we are focused and know what to do in order to win this game,” said Ramazan Döne, Besiktas’ top scorer, with 27 goals in five matches this season.

Mufit Arin’s side enjoyed an uneventful week, with a 38:27 straightforward win against Bozokspor, in the Turkish League.

HBC Nantes (FRA) vs Dinamo Bucuresti (ROU)
Sunday, 13 November, 17:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

Fresh from two incredible upsets against Belarus and Poland in the EHF EURO 2018 Qualification, Romanian handball is turning to Dinamo Bucuresti and their quest to reach the playoff stage of the VELUX EHF Champions League.

Goalkeeper Ionut Irimus and line player Marius Mocanu, who were key players in Romania’s huge achievements, are now looking to continue their winning ways, with their morale buoyed by the two wins.

However, the game against Nantes is both a do-or-die one and the most difficult one up until now for the “Red Dogs”, as the French side joins FC Barcelona Lassa as the only undefeated teams in the competition after five games.

“I think Dinamo is, alongside Motor, one of the best teams in the group. I think we will be very close to our objective (qualifying for the next phase) if we win against Dinamo on Sunday,” said David Balaguer, the Spanish wing who scored the decisive goal in Nantes’ win in Bucharest three weeks ago, 27:26.

The French side will be more focused than ever, after losing their first game this season in the French League, 23:21, against St. Raphael.

“In Bucharest, there was an incredible audience and if we can have that in our home for the match against Dinamo, it will be easier to win.”

“It was a difficult match there and we know Dinamo very well now. If we can win both our home games in the next two weeks, we are closer than ever to the next phase,” said Nantes’ coach, Thierry Anti.

However, Dinamo has not won in away games yet and is in a transition period, with coach Eliodor Voica trying to implement new plays in his game plan.

Dinamo’s oscillating game against HC Odorhei on Thursday was proof, with the Romanian champions tying the game for the first time after 56 minutes, only to draw against their opponents, 27:27.

“I am trying to change something and that was there to be seen. We hope to be ready for the Nantes challenge, because we need to win that game in order to fulfill our objective, “ said Voica.

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / bc

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