|30.11.2016, 16:20||◄ last page|
GROUP D PREVIEW: Motor and Besiktas face off for a play-off berth while Nantes look set to protect their first place when hosting Holstebro.
Winner takes it all in Motor vs Besiktas clash
Nantes earned a play-off berth in their maiden VELUX EHF Champions League season with a plain sailing 33:28 win against Besiktas last week. They are still looking for two wins in their last two matches in order to avoid having to play fellow French side Montpellier.
The fight for the other next-phase berth is still open, with Motor Zaporozhye and Besiktas squaring off in Ukraine in a game that could be decisive.
A win for Motor would guarantee them a spot in the play-offs for the second year in a row, while Besiktas will have to win against both Motor and Dinamo in the last round to be sure of their maiden play-off berth.
Dinamo Bucuresti (ROU) – ABC/UMinho (POR)
It would have been a dream scenario: Dinamo take a win on the Great Union Day, the national holiday of Romania, to propel them into the next phase.
But the ‘Red Dogs’ have been knocked out of the competition following their painful 35:27 defeat against Motor.
But the motivation is still there, with Dinamo expecting a full arena as fans get free entry on national holiday.
The Romanian side are aiming for a strong finish on home court, where lost only once this campaign, in a hard-fought game against Nantes.
ABC have lost their last four games by six goals on average as their attack dipped from 31.5 goals per game to 25.25. After a promising start, ABC sank to the last place in the group as they were leapfrogged by TTH Holstebro last round.
Dinamo will rely heavily on left back Sajad Esteki, who is making his mark in his maiden season in the VELUX EHF Champions League.
The 26-year-old Iranian scored 54 times this season to become runner-up in the goal scorers list, trailing only Holstebro left wing Magnus Bramming, who is on 65.
HBC Nantes (FRA) vs TTH Holstebro (DEN)
For a rookie in the European top club competition, Nantes are having an amazing season, with harmonious performances resulting in a six-game unbeaten streak and a sole defeat in eight matches.
Therefore, it was no surprise that the French side earned a play-off berth with two games to go, after a clear win against Besiktas last Sunday.
“It was our target and we worked very hard for it. It was the main objective of this season. I think it is quite crazy we did it in such fashion,” Nantes captain Rock Feliho said.
With Motor owning the tiebreaker and only two points behind, Nantes have both everything to play for and everything to lose, with a potential tie with the winners of Group C looming.
“Of course it would be better to win the group and play the second game of the play-off tie on home court,” Feliho said. “With Montpellier almost sure of their first place in Group C, I think it would be better if we did not play against them and have three French teams in the next phase of the competition.”
Holstebro will come to France full of confidence after their 34:29 win against ABC.
“We want to get as far as we can in the competition. And I am confident we will win the game against Holstebro, even if they are a good team,” Nantes goalkeeper Arnaud Siffert said.
HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR) vs Besiktas Mogaz HT (TUR)
An early 6:1 lead helped Besiktas secure a hard-fought 23:22 win against Motor in their home game.
They will have to clinch a similar result in Ukraine as a loss would seal their fate in this year’s VELUX EHF Champions League.
With a four-game winning streak, Motor are the in-form team of the group. The Ukrainian side rebounded admirably after a subpar start to boost their chances for a second play-off berth in two seasons.
Coincidentally, Motor’s rise has been mirrored by Barys Pukhouski’s return as the Belarussian centre back scored 24 of his 30 goals this season in the last four games.
“We have to win every game. There is literally no room for mistakes right now. Against Dinamo, we were motivated from the start and we have to replicate this against Besiktas,” Pukhouski said.
The Turkish side enjoyed their first-ever away win in the Champions League two weeks ago against ABC/UMinho, and will hope to repeat the feat in Ukraine.
“We know we made our mistakes but we cannot dwell on them. We have to win in Ukraine,” Besiktas coach Mufit Arin said.
The Turkish champions will likely be without line player Mehmet Demirezen and left wing Ivan Nincevic due to injuries.
It makes Besiktas’ challenge even harder as Motor so far had three wins and a draw in their home games.
TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / ew