Battle for main round points takes centre stage
The fifth round of games in Group A should offer plenty of excitement as the top two, Metz and Buducnost, clash with the ambition of taking as many points as they can into the main round.
Thüringer HC, who are also on the verge of sealing their berth, will try to protect an eight-goal advantage which they earned in their opening 24:16 win over debutants Glassverket.
Metz expected to present a strong challenge to Buducnost
Both Metz and Buducnost are through to the next round
Glassverket to come out with all guns blazing against THC
THC can seal their main round berth with a win
Metz Handball (FRA) vs Buducnost (MNE)
Friday, 19:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com
Buducnost have so far strolled through the group matches, collecting a maximum eight points from their opening four fixtures, but they were made to work extremely hard in a 21:19 home victory over Metz Handball.
The tenacity of the French side’s resistance in the group’s opening fixture suggests that they are capable of coming away with something on home court, which is what they will try to do in order to take as many points as they can into the main round.
Both teams have already qualified for the second group matches of Europe’s premier club competition, hence the contest will be devoid of drama at the highest level.
However, there is still plenty to play for and Buducnost coach Dragan Adzic will expect his team to produce the same kind of ruthless performance which saw the winners of two EHF Champions League titles steamroll over Thüringer HC (28:19) in the previous round.
“The display against THC has instilled optimism ahead of the difficult outing to Metz, which will be decisive for claiming the top spot in our section,” Adzic said after his side completed the double over the German titleholders.
“We believe we can be at the top of our game in Metz and carry maximum points into the main round, which is our objective.”
Metz warmed up for the challenge with a comfortable 30:24 French league win over Nice, as Slovenia’s Ana Gros rifled in eight goals from 11 shots against the visitors.
Grace Zaadi added five from six and Sladjana Pop-Lazic chipped in with five from as many shots, showing a welcome flurry of shooting prowess before Europe’s most battle-hardened defence comes to town.
Glassverket (NOR) vs Thüringer HC (GER)
Sunday, 16:45 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com
This is a make-or-break match for EHF Champions League debutants Glassverket, who must win to keep alive any hopes of qualifying for the main round.
In all likelihood, it is going to be a tall order for the Norwegian side, which has lost all their four games so far although they have been a somewhat tougher nut to crack on home court.
In order to overhaul Thüringer HC in the battle for third place before the last round of matches, Glassverket must overhaul a 24:16 defeat by THC in the reverse fixture, which is a near-impossible mission.
Still, the German side will be wary of Glassverket’s ability to create something out of nothing, as epitomised by their spectacular though incomplete home court comeback against Metz.
Trailing 15:8 at half-time, the Norwegian side scored nine unanswered goals in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, before eventually going down 24:22 to a more experienced Metz team.
Glassverket will hope for a similar kind of fighting spirit against Thüringer, who have shown plenty of cracks in their armour, albeit against much tougher opposition.
THC enjoyed a morale-boosting 38:17 home win over Blomberg-Lippe in the German top division, which kept them second in the standings on 12 points from seven games, two behind surprise leaders Bietigheim who have seven wins out of seven.
Glassverket too had a fine dress rehearsal, beating Sola 33:24 away to stay second in the Norwegian top flight on 13 points from eight games, three adrift of champions Larvik who have won all their eight games.