2016 ends with clash of the top teams at Barcelona
For the last time in 2016, the curtain gets lifted this weekend in Group A of the VELUX EHF Champions League. And the schedule could not have been better, as the two top teams face in Barcelona. The winner of their duel with PSG decides, which one will celebrate going into 2017 on top of the ranking.
• Only three matches are played, as Flensburg vs Schaffhausen was postponed to 8 March 2017
• After the results of the previous round, Kiel can make a huge step towards the Last 16 against Plock
• BSV already have their penultimate home match of the group phase in Round 9
• PSG and Barcelona are the two most successful teams of all 28 participants with 14 points each
THW Kiel (GER) vs Orlen Wisla Plock (POL)
Saturday, 17:30 hrs. local time, live on ehfTV.com
After losing the first leg in Plock, THW are out for revenge against the Polish runners-up. Despite some injury problems (Dissinger and Weinhold), Kiel are seen to be the favourites on home court despite their previous home defeat against Flensburg.
Kiel did not lose any of three previous home matches against Plock, but in the 2015/16, they were extremely shaken and managed to take the points only by a close 27:24 win.
The Polish sides Last 16 hopes were shaken with the surprising defeat at Schaffhausen in Round 8, while Kiel overcame Flensburg’s fortress. Another THW win would increase the gap between both opponents to five points.
FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP) vs Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA) - ehfTV.com Match of the Week
Saturday, 20:30 hrs. local time, live on ehfTV.com
The 33:26 in the first leg of this giant’s duel was the first time ever Paris beat Barcelona, and it was the so far the one and only defeat for the Catalans in all competitions, including Champions League.
The French champions arrive full of confidence after seven straight group phase wins after the opening defeat at Kiel.
Both sides had won their respective groups in the previous season, and thus had directly qualified for the quarter-finals. This season, it seems that the duel of both will be the one to decide this top position in Group A, as both are already far ahead of the rest of the group.
PSG stars Mikkel Hansen and Nikola Karabatic will face their former teammates, and coach Xavi Pascual. On the other hand, Dika Mem and Timothey N’Guessan will face a huge number of French national teammates. Their fellow countryman Cedric Sorhaindo is still ruled out by an injury as well as his Barcelona teammate Filip Jicha.
A crucial fact will be, whether the hosts can stop the routes to PSG’s left wing Uwe Gensheimer, the current third best scorer of the competition with 53 goals. He will face his former Löwen teammate, Barca goalkeeper, Borko Ristovski.
Besides that, some Danish Olympic champions will face off, with Mikkel Hansen and Henrik Möllgard on PSG side, and Jesper Noddesbo for Barcelona.
Bjerringbro-Silkeborg (DEN) vs Telekom Veszprém (HUN)
Sunday, 16:50 hrs. local time, live on ehfTV.com
How can the Danish champions cope with the demolishing defeat at Barcelona? The team were beaten 34:19 on Sunday at the Catalans, and now have another motivated opponent ahead. After losing both encounters with PSG, Veszprém are under pressure in the race for the top position in this group, being below the leading duo already with five points.
And the 2016 VELUX EHF Champions League finalist still wait for their first away win. Veszprém tied in Flensburg and Plock and lost at Paris and Barcelona. In case of another defeat, the dream of skipping the Last 16 would already be over before Christmas.
On the other hand, BSV already have has their sixth and penultimate home match ahead, and so far they only took one win on home court -- the clear 33:24 against Plock. In case of the second victory on home court, they might end up passing out Plock and take the crucial sixth position before the winter break.
Due to their wider bench and higher international experience, Veszprém are the favourites. But the first leg in Hungary - a 30:29 - was a higher hurdle to cross then Veszprém had expected.