|24.02.2017, 08:00||◄ last page|
GROUP A ROUND PREVIEW: In the fight for the top spot in Group A, PSG have an easier task ahead compared to Barcelona; Plock have an oppourtunity secure their Last 16 place.
Duel for top position on the final straight
In the third last round of the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase, the fight for the top position in Group A is in focus. Both contenders, Paris Saint-Germain Handball and FC Barcelona Lassa, have home matches. Another important consideration- whether Orlen Wisla Plock or Bjerringbro-Silkeborg will finish in the coveted sixth position to qualify for the Last 16- can be answered in Veszprém on Saturday.
Telekom Veszprém (HUN) vs. Orlen Wisla Plock (POL)
Veszprém cheated the gallows and stopped their downswing with their win at Kiel. In contrast to their crucial match last week, not much seems to be at stake for the 2015 and 2016 VELUX EHF Champions League finalists in their match against Plock. Even if PSG lose all their remaining matches, Veszprém will be unable to pass them. Thus, their match against Plock is for honour- as twice in the current and the previous season, they tied with the Polish runners-up.
On the other hand, an away win at Lion’s Den would grant the “Oilers” a ticket to the Last 16. They defeated BSV in a crucial duel in the previous round. But history does not favour the Polish side, as they have failed to gain more than one point from an encounter with Veszprém in the current and previous season.
A decisive duel will be the one between the goalkeepers, with the duo of Roland Mikler and Mirko Alilovic on one hand for Veszprém, and outgoing Rodrigo Corrales (who will join PSG next summer) on the other.
THW Kiel (GER) vs. Bjerringbro-Silkeborg (DEN)
For the first time ever, Bjerringbro will play an official match at Sparkassen Arena in Kiel. The significance of this match is greater for the Danish champions than it is for the three times EHF Champions League winners Kiel. Bjerringbro need to bridge the four point gap with Plock, if they want to make it to the Last 16. However, the two Danish Kiel stars Niklas Landin and Rene Toft Hansen will be eager to repeat a result like the 28:25 in the first leg in their home country.
Bjerringbro will have to replace Johan Hansen for the rest of the year. His knee injury, which occurred while scoring at Plock last Saturday, was determined to be a torn crucial ligament. “We will have to find an internal solution to replace him,” said coach Peter Bredsdorff-Larssen on the Bjerringbro website.
Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA) vs. Kadetten Schaffhausen (SUI)
Schaffhausen’s top scorer Gabor Csaszar will face his former club PSG on Saturday. Despite having played one match less than Bjerringbro and Plock, the road to the Last 16 seems to be blocked- another defeat at Paris would end all hope for the Swiss champions.
After home defeats against Kiel and Barcelona, the duel with the star-studded PSG side is Schaffhausen’s first international away match for their new coach Petr Kukucka.
On the other hand, Paris have the chance to finish on top of the group. But as they are two points Barcelona, the French champions need the Catalans to stumble. After being ruled out of their previous match due to flu, Danish star Mikkel Hansen is set to return to play for the Paris squad.
FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP) vs. SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER)
Flensburg’s chance to finish on top of the group was shattered by the buzzer-beating goal of PSG right back Nedim Remili in the 33:34 home defeat. Now, the 2014 VELUX EHF Champions League winners are set to finish in third place. They still have the postponed match against Kadetten ahead.
But the challenge of facing the group leaders is huge: Flensburg have never won any points at Barcelona in the group phase of the EHF Champions League, and the Catalans have won all previous home matches in a dominant fashion. For the third straight season, both sides lock horns. The Champions League record holders won the last three duels. However, in the 2014 semi-final at Cologne Flensburg made history by turning around a six goal deficit against Barcelona, and winning a penalty shoot-out.
“We are aware of Flensburg, but we want to continue on our victorious way to finish on top,” said Barcelona coach Xavi Pascual. His side is still two points ahead of PSG. However, Kiel can tip the scales, as the German side will face both top contenders in the last two rounds.
TEXT: Björn Pazen/kc