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16.11.2016, 17:32◄ last page     

GROUP D PREVIEW: A win against Motor would help Nantes virtually claim a playoff spot, if Besiktas lose in Portugal


Nantes looking for playoff berth

A five-game winning streak, no losses in the first six games and a goal difference of plus 23 all underline Nantes’ flawless start in the VELUX EHF Champions League.

A Besiktas loss against ABC/UMinho and a win against Motor Zaporozhye would claim the French side their first ever playoff berth in the top European competition, with four teams battling it out for the second place.

In the group’s other two face-offs, both Dinamo and ABC face vital dogfights against TTH Holstebro and Besiktas if they are to survive in the competition

•    After six games in the competition, Nantes remain the only unbeaten side
•    ABC’s attack has dipped from an average of 32,5 goals scored in the first four games to a unconvincing 22,5 goals in their two losses against Motor
•    Magnus Bramming, Holstebro’s left wing, is still the top scorer of the VELUX EHF Champions League, with 47 goals in six matches


Dinamo Bucuresti (ROU) vs TTH Holstebro (DEN)
Thursday, 17 November, 19:30hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

“If we win against Holstebro and double that with another win against Motor, maybe we can hope for a playoff berth,” said Dinamo’s coach, Eliodor Voica, after the Romanian champions lost by a two-goal margin against HBC Nantes, last Sunday.

Dinamo’s hectic schedule has surely worked against the “Red Dogs”, who won only four of their previous 12 matches, including their only one in the top European competition up until now, against Motor.

However, Eliodor Voica’s team has drawn two other matches in the VELUX EHF Champions League, while their biggest losses were against Nantes and ABC, both by a meager two-goal difference.

Hence, Dinamo are confident for progressing from what promises to be a closely-knit group, in which every goal counts.

The Romanian side boasts a fine home record, with one win, one draw and a one-goal defeat against Nantes.

Statistically, there is no defence worse than Holstebro, as the Danish side has conceded 194 goals in their six matches, three more than Kadetten Schaffhausen.

“I think we are letting our opponents score too many goals and this affects us. But I am happy about how the match against Besiktas unfolded,” said Patrick Westerholm, Holstebro’s coach.

The Danish side continues to be at the bottom of the group, but will overpower Dinamo in the rankings if they are to win in Bucharest.

The two teams met in the opening game of the group, with the Romanian side taking a one-goal lead into the last ten seconds, only for Jac Johan Karlsson to scored a penalty in the last second, to tie the game, 32:32.

ABC/UMinho (POR) vs Besiktas Mogaz HT (TUR)
Saturday, 19 November, 17:00hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

As Besiktas were looking to inch closer to a historic playoff berth, the Turkish side was not expecting a devastating loss at the hands of Holstebro last week.

However, there is no time for the “Eagles” to dwell on their loss, as a new challenge awaits them, with a wounded opponent nonetheless.

After protecting their home court for their first two matches, ABC recorded their second-worst loss in the history of the VELUX EHF Champions League, a 35:22 drubbing at the hands of Motor.

“I think that we were too tired mentally and physically to cope with such a game. I hope that we will be able to cope with this result and be better next time,” said Carlos Resende, ABC’s coach.

The Portuguese side will be playing on Saturday for their last chance to progress to the next phase of the competition, after two heartbreaking defeats against Motor, who saw the Ukrainian side outrun ABC by three points and own the tiebreaker against them.

But ABC will have to recoup their powerful offense, which impressed in the first four games, scoring 32,5 goals per game. Their form has dipped against Motor, with the average freefalling to a feeble 22,5 goals per game, ten goals shy of the start of the season.

On the other hand, Besiktas will be looking to bounce back from handing Holstebro their first ever win in the European premium competition, as a win would have helped the Turkish champions enjoy a two-point lead ahead of Motor.

The “Eagles” have already improved on their record in a single season in the VELUX EHF Champions League, but will have to finish off in style if there are to make history and earn a playoff place.

HBC Nantes (FRA) vs HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR)
Saturday, 19 November, 19:30hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

With FC Barcelona Lassa finally suffering their first loss this season, at the hands of PSG, there is another French team who is still the only one unbeaten in the competition.

While the opponents are not as tough as in Barcelona’s group, Nantes is impressing in their maiden season of the VELUX EHF Champions League, with five wins and only one draw in the first six games.

“The international games have put our fitness to question, but we are in a good rhythm and finding ways to win the matches,” said Nantes’ coach, Thierry Anti, before the domestic league derby against Cesson Handball.

Nantes have already jumped to a four-point lead at the top of the table and will virtually be untouchable if they win their sixth game in a row, against Motor on Saturday.

The French side would earn a playoff berth with a win if Besiktas lose against ABC/UMinho.

The energetic Ukrainian team is the only one in the group not to leave the field defeated against Nantes, with a 26:26 draw in the first game.

“Nantes are a very good team that comes from one of the best leagues in the world, the French one. It is a difficult opponent, that will put all our credentials to the test,” said Nikolay Stepanets, Motor’s coach.

The Ukrainian side jumped to the second place in the table after a series of three wins in the last four matches, with a loss against Besiktas the only slip-up.

Motor’s hopes are up after centre-back Barys Pukhoski, last year’s top goalscorer for the Ukrainian side, is back after a recurring knee injury and scored 13 goals in the doubleheader against ABC/UMinho.

A positive result will surely pump up the visitors, who are due for two games at home in the next two rounds, against Dinamo and Besiktas.

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / bc

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