Thüringer HC and Metz clash for main round points
Buducnost, Metz and Thüringer HC have already sealed their main round berths but there is still plenty at stake, as all three teams are battling for main round points.
Metz need a win at Thüringer HC to finish ahead of Buducnost, who are at home to eliminated Glassverket and will see the clash as a good dress rehearsal for the second group stage.
THC to present a strong home court challenge against Metz
Buducnost looking to bounce back against Glassverket
Buducnost (MNE) vs Glassverket (NOR)
Friday, 19:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com
Buducnost suffered a painful 28:25 defeat at Metz in the last round and will head into the match against EHF Champions League debutants Glassverket determined to make amends.
The setback cost the Montenegrin giants two main round points, while it also snapped their four-game winning streak after the French champions produced their best performance of the season.
Should Buducnost and Metz finish level on points, Metz will claim the group’s top spot with a better head-to-head record as the Montenegrin giants won their home fixture 21:19 against their French rivals.
“The match against Glassverket will be a good test ahead of tougher games against main round rivals,” Buducnost coach Dragan Adzic told a news conference on Thursday.
“They are not the group’s strongest team but have nonetheless held their own for long spells in all their games. Glassverket have shown all the hallmarks of Norwegian handball and the quality it produces.”
Winger Itana Grbic said: “We analysed the game against Metz and realised what we did wrong, so we are here to make amends with a win against Glassverket.”
“We planned to carry a maximum eight points into the main round but six will do under the circumstances. Surprises happen in handball, just look at Rostov; they were one of the favourites in their group and will miss the main round.”
The Montenegrin giants will miss injured centre back Milena Raicevic, but should still be too strong for the Champions League debutants.
Although Glassverket suffered five defeats in as many games on their debut in Europe’s top flight, they will bow out of the group matches with their pride intact.
The Norwegian side played their hearts out against all their opponents and made a good impression in last weekend’s 33:27 home defeat by Thüringer HC, with Icelandic import Birna Berg Haraldsdottir scoring seven goals against the German title holders.
Thüringer HC (GER) vs Metz Handball (FRA)
Saturday, 14:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com
Both teams are through to the main round but in many ways this feels like a make-or-break encounter, with precious main round points at stake for Thüringer HC and Metz.
The French champions sent shock waves through European handball last weekend, when they beat Buducnost 28:25 to leap into the group’s driving seat after a magnificent home court performance.
However, the accomplishment will be devalued if they falter against an unpredictable THC side capable of overpowering stronger rivals in their Nordhausen arena, where the home fans regularly create a fervent atmosphere.
If current form and recent results are anything to go by, Metz should start as strong favourites and take six points out of a possible eight to the second group matches.
The French side can rely on an array of accomplished performers, with Serbian line player Sladjana Pop-Lazic scoring a game-high eight goals against Buducnost, while Grace Zaadi netted six and Ana Gros added five on a memorable afternoon for Metz.
In addition to their ironclad defence, Metz also boast plenty of firepower in attack and their versatility should prevail in a high-tempo game against Thüringer HC.
Metz enjoyed a fine warm-up for the clash with a 29:22 French league win at bottom team Celles, which kept them top of the 11-team first division on 22 points from eight games.
Thüringer had a somewhat tougher interlude as they scraped a 27:26 Bundesliga win at Leverkusen to stay second in the German top flight on 14 points from eight games, two adrift of leaders Bietigheim.