|24.03.2017, 10:30||◄ last page|
LAST 16 PREVIEW: HC Meshkov Brest and SG Flensburg-Handewitt will meet for the first time ever in the VELUX Champions League
Brest and Flensburg optimistic ahead of clash
The paths of HC Meshkov Brest and SG Flensburg-Handewitt have never crossed in a EHF European competition, but now they are going to face each other in the VELUX Champions League Last 16. The first leg match will take place on Sunday in Brest.
Last 16, first leg
HC Meshkov Brest (BLR) vs SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER)
For the second year in a row, HC Meshkov Brest qualified for the VELUX Champions League Last 16. This season, the Belarusian champions claimed 14 points in Group B and finished in fifth place.
Brest were particularly strong at home, where they earned ten points, and managed to upset strong teams such as Rhein-Neckar Löwen, MOL-Pick Szeged and HC Vardar. Those successful experiences give them a valid reason to be optimistic before the home match against Flensburg.
"I'm sure that it will be a top quality handball. With the support of home crowd, our players should show their best qualities. We have already beaten Rhein-Neckar Löwen at home this season, so why not do the same against another German rival?" says Brest's sports director Pavel Bashkin.
The Russian left back Pavel Atman seconds that: "Flensburg are a very strong rival, but we certainly have a good chance at home – and then we will see," he told ehfcl.com.
Most likely, Brest will have to do without one of their key players Rastko Stojkovic. The Serbian line player got an injury last week in the SEHA League game against HC Prvo pilnarsko drustvo Zagreb.
On the other hand, Flensburg will travel to Belarus without left back Ivan Horvat and right back Johan Jakobsson who both have long term injuries. However, the Dutch right back Mark Bult, who moved from VfL Gummersbach in January as a replacement for Jakobsson, is now finally eligible to play for Flensburg in the continental top flight.
Flensburg, who are currently top of the German Bundesliga, have not been so consistent in the continental top flight this season. In the tough and competitive Group A, they suffered six defeats in 14 games and finished in just fourth position.
However, the team reached their main goal, which was to progress to the Last 16. Prior to this stage, German team's coach Ljubomir Vranjes sounds optimistic.
"Brest have had some good results under their belt, yet I have a good feeling. We just have to do our job," he says.
The upcoming clash will be special for Flensburg's left back Petar Djordjic. The 26-year-old Serbian, who has been playing for the German side since 2015, will move to Brest in the summer- and therefore now has to compete against his future team.
"It was not easy to agree on his transfer. About three months passed from the moment when we showed our interest until actually signing the contract. As for Djordjic playing against his future team, he is quite professional, so I don't think there should be any questions about that," said Pavel Bashkin.
TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev/kc