Buducnost and Metz favourites at halfway mark
The section’s heavyweights, Buducnost and Metz Handball, are odds-on favourites to win their away games in this round, with the Montenegrin giants visiting Thüringer HC while the French side takes on the competition’s newcommers, Glassverket IF.
Buducnost have an impressive record against Thüringer
Metz showing the makings of a strong side so far
Thüringer HC (GER) vs Buducnost (MNE)
Sunday, 14:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com
The German titleholders know exactly what they will be up against when Buducnost come to town, having won only one of their previous six meetings against the two-time former winners of the Women’s EHF Champions League.
Buducnost, who came out on top comfortably in both their opening two group matches, are once again strong favourites after breaking a rare record with last weekend’s victory in Glassverket.
The Montenegrin giants leapfrogged Hypo as the team with the most points in the competition’s history (253) after sinking the Norwegian debutants 30:23, delighting their coach Dragan Adzic ahead of the somewhat tougher outing in Nordhausen.
“We have positioned ourselves as one of the top teams in European club handball thanks to an array of outstanding generations,” Adzic was quoted as saying by the club’s website.
“We have made a big step towards raising our game to an optimum level this season, but we are now looking at three crucial group matches which will determine our position ahead of the main round,” he added.
Adzic will also be buoyed by the fact that 13 players scored against Glassverket, led by 19-year-old left back Djurdjina Jaukovic who scored five goals against the Norwegian outfit.
Thüringer, soundly beaten in Metz (25:18) in the previous round, warmed up for the clash with an emphatic 30:22 Bundesliga win at Neckarsulmer.
The result kept them third in Germany’s top flight with 10 points from six games after Iveta Luzumova rifled in six goals, while four other players chipped in with four goals each.
However, that high-scoring tally will be difficult to repeat against an ironclad Buducnost defence.
Glassverket (NOR) vs Metz Handball (FRA)
Sunday, 15:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com
Metz have so far shown the makings of a side capable of reaching the knockout stages of Europe’s premier club competition, having blown away Thüringer HC on home court after a narrow loss to Buducnost in the opening round.
The French champions displayed impressive defensive strength in both games, having conceded fewer goals (39) than any other team in the competition.
At the other end of the court, tireless teamwork propped up Slovenian Ana Gros and German Xenia Smits as the top scorers in a 25:18 win against Thüringer HC, with six goals apiece.
All these traits give Metz a clear edge against Glassverket, who have shown tremendous fighting spirit in their debut season.
They bowed out with their heads high after a 30:23 home defeat by Buducnost, as their Icelandic centre back Birna Berg Haraldsdottir shone with a game-high 11 goals.
The Norwegian side could give Metz a good run for their money if Haraldsdottir can repeat that performance, while Emilie Christensen, who netted eight goals in the opening 24:16 defeat at Metz, is expected to rediscover her shooting form.
The French side did not have a perfect dress rehearsal for the visit to Drammen, but the upside is that they got a taste of what might come if they lose their focus.
They suffered a 22:21 home-court setback to Brest in the French league, with Smits scoring only one goal from 11 shots while Gros netted three from seven.
Glassverket have not played in the domestic championship since their 40:25 drubbing at the hands of champions Larvik, three days before a much-improved performance against Buducnost.