|07.03.2017, 13:40||◄ last page|
GROUP A PREVIEW: The final round will decide the top position of the group, and the final Last 16 berth
Five matches to decide everything
51 matches have been played in Group A so far- but the only confirmed position prior to the final round is the elimination of bottom place Kadetten Schaffhausen.
FC Barcelona Lassa and Paris Saint-Germain Handball are still fighting for the top position, which allows a team to skip the Last 16. Bjerringbro-Silkeborg and Oren Wisla Plock are aiming for the final spot in the knockout stage.
Telekom Veszprém and SG Flensburg-Handewitt are face off for the third position in the Match of the Week.
• Barcelona and PSG are fighting for the top spot
SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) vs Kadetten Schaffhausen (SUI)
Due to Flensburg’s busy schedule, this match needed to be postponed to the 14th round. The German side is favourite to win - they won the first leg 29:26. However, Schaffhausen clearly improved since Petr Kukucka has taken over as their new coach.
Last round the Swiss champions were unlucky to miss a draw with Veszprém. But their centre back Gabor Csaszar being in brilliant form at the moment -he is leading the top scorer list with 76 goals - Schaffhausen are out of the race for the Last 16.
After their defeats against PSG and Barcelona, Flensburg got back on track with an unexpected close home victory against Bjerringbro. They need to beat Schaffhausen to remain in the race for the third position, which would provide them with a home match in the second leg of the Last 16.
Telekom Veszprém (HUN) vs SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) - Match of the Week
Just three days after their match with Schaffhausen, the 2014 VELUX EHF Champions League winners Flensburg have another crucial duel which is featured as the ehfTV.com Match of the Week. Only if they manage beat Kadetten, and win at Veszprém, will they be able to finish in third position. In all other cases, the record-holding Hungarian champions are ahead of Flensburg.
An interesting dimension of the match is the fact that Flensburg coach Ljubomir Vranjes will face his future squad, as from June on he will take over Veszprém and the Hungarian national team. Veszprém have not lost any of their three matches against German opponents in the group phase so far, as they beat Kiel twice and tied at Flensburg after losing a clear lead.
It is still unclear whether Veszprém’s playmaker Aron Palmarsson will be able to return after his injury- if the Icelander is fit, it would increase the hosts’ chances of winning.
Veszprém have lost two home matches in this phase -against Barcelona and PSG, while Flensburg’s away record includes four wins and two defeats- also against Barcelona and PSG.
FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP) vs Orlen Wisla Plock (POL)
After their thrilling tie at Kiel in the previous round, Barcelona are only one step away from finishing on top. But the Xavi Pascual’s team needs to beat Plock to make it straight to the quarter-finals, like they did in the 2015/16 season when they topped Group B. PSG are only one point below, and the French champions have won the direct encounter between the two teams on aggregate goal difference.
In the first leg, Barcelona turned the tide after being down at the break to finally take a clear 28:23 win at Plock. But it is not just a crucial match for Barcelona: The visitors are aiming for their fourth straight ticket for the Last 16. The battle for the final Last 16 spot has boiled down to only two points in the final round- and as Plock had lost the direct encounter against Bjerringbro they need at least a draw at Barcelona to secure their spot. Otherwise, Bjerringbro can pass the Poles with a win in their match against Schaffhausen on Sunday.
This is only the fourth duel between Barcelona and Plock in history - so far the Catalans have won three of the encounters.
Bjerringbro-Silkeborg (DEN) vs Kadetten Schaffhausen (SUI)
Crunch time has come for the squad of Peter Bredsdorff-Larsen. They will know their fate when the match throws off, as Plock will have played their match on Saturday. If the Poles lose, Bjerringbro need to beat Schaffhausen to make it to the Last 16 for the second time since the 2012/13 season.
In the first leg at Switzerland, the Danish champions were extremely lucky to take a 25:24 win in their first ever duel with Schaffhausen. On 16 October 2016, Bjerringbro beat Plock 33:24, but did not have another win until round 12 where they had sensational 24:21 win at Kiel - this might be a decisive result in the end.
Schaffhausen have nothing to lose at Denmark, as they are already eliminated from the Last 16.
Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA) vs THW Kiel (GER)
PSG will know before the start of their match if the duel of two powerhouses is for honour only, or for the top position. If Barcelona beat Plock the day before, PSG will be confirmed to finish in second place regardless the result against Kiel.
Three former THW players -Thierry Omeyer, Daniel Narcisse and Nikola Karabatic, plus the duo of coaches, Noka Serdarusic and Staffan Olsson- are currently with PSG, but as both sides have already faced each other this season-this is not unusual for them. Paris had beaten THW only once on home court so far, and they lost the opener of the group phase at Kiel before winning eleven of twelve upcoming group matches.
After some weak results, Kiel rose like phoenix from the ashes last weekend, forcing a tie against Barcelona, and maybe this draw will inadvertently enable PSG to skip the Last 16.
TEXT: Björn Pazen / kc