Blimey … you wait for months for some Champions League handball and then three matches come along at once. If this was US primary season they’d be calling it Super Thursday. As it is, we’ll just direct you to the three games you can see today via the good people at EHF TV (free, uninterrupted but no commentary).
(A recap: this is match round 8 of the group stage. As there are six teams per group there are ten matches and four qualifiers. Quite a lot of the qualification, if not placings, has already been decided).
We start at 2.45pm with Chekhovskie Medvedi at home to HSV Hamburg. The two teams top their group and drew 27:27 in Hamburg back in October. The “Chekhov Bears” (and indeed HSV) have lost to German opposition in the Champions League this year – away t0 Flensburg-Handewitt. Providing the two teams play to their best and field first teams this should be a close one.
That’s followed at 6.30pm by another match from Group A. Partizan Beograd (Belgrade) recorded a home win over Spanish opposition in October but haven’t collected a single point away from home so far. Today they are at Flensburg-Handewitt whose two drawn matches prevent them occupying top spot. This one should not be close.
Finally, at 7pm, a match that could mean a lot for qualification. Pick Szeged have four points, Kadetten Schaffhausen have 2. In their previous encounter in Hungary, Szeged won by the odd point in 59. Schaffhausen’s sole win was at home and if they repeat that today they will be back in the mix for the fourth and final qualifying spot in this group.
Tomorrow sees the return of the EHF Women’s Champions League with the first match of the main round. The ‘Main Round’ is the second group stage of the competition wherein the eight remaining teams slug it out for the semi final spots. This weekend, oddly(*), sees only the one match but it could be a good one: the Scandinavian ‘derby’ between the Norwegians of Larvik and the Danes of Randers.
Randers finished second in their group with a three wins, three losses record and were dependent on a final game victory over Hypo Niederoesterreich to progress. Larvik were Champions League winners in 2011 but were overwhelmed by winners Buducnost in the semi finals last year. The bookies make Larvik 1/8 favourites and in their two previous Champions League meetings (in 2010) they were indeed comfortable winners. But if for no other reason than it’s good both to have the Champions League back and handball available in the UK via decent streams let’s hang on to the idea that it might be a bit closer than all that suggests.
(* = It’s because the Larvik arena is double-booked next weekend).
First up, the results from the first day of the group stages:
Group A: Chekhovskie Medvedi 38:31 RK Partizan; SG Flensburg Handewitt 37:37 Montpellier
Group B: IK Savehof 35:31 HCM Constanza
Group D: Kadetten Schaffhausen 23:33 Barcelona
Modesty prevents us from saying that we called all those correctly. Anyway, onto Friday’s previews …
Group B: MKB Veszprém KC – Celje Pivovarna Lasko (4pm UK, live stream)
Veszprém of Hungary were finalists in 2002 but their best showing in recent years has been to make it to the final eight and in the last two years they’ve had to settle for elimination at the first knock out stage. Their Slovakian opponents today have an even less illustrious history in the Champions League but were Cup Winners Cup semi finalists last year. The points will be staying in Hungary.
Group C: Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb – Pick Szeged (5.30pm UK, live stream)
From Hungarians at home to Hungarians abroad. Pick Szeged won twice in last year’s group stages whereas Zagreb made it to the quarter finals and gave Kiel a hell of a fright. I’m going for another home victory.
Group A: Reale Ademar Leon – HSV Hamburg (6pm UK, live stream)
HSV have had a topsy-turvy Bundesliga so far – losing their opening game to Wetzlar but drawing with SG Flensburg-Handewitt. Reale Ademar Leon are unbeaten in the Asobal but their most recent match was a somewhat surprising draw against Academia Octavio. Which is a long way of saying that this is the most interesting match of the day. A draw.
Group C: Gorenje Velenje – St. Petersburg (7pm UK, live stream)
Gorenje Velenje reached the quarter finals of the EHF Cup last season where they had the misfortune to meet Rhein Neckar Loewen – but they still only lost by 3 over the 2 legs. St Petersburg are perrenial runners-up in the Russian championship and they haven’t yet made it out of the group stages in the Champions League – but they have half a dozen new players looking to prove themselves and I’m backing them to win a close one here today.
Today sees the start of the 2012/13 Champions League main groups stages. The road to Cologne and the Final 4 starts here. All the matches are being shown online by Laola1 TV in partnership with EHF TV (there are local blackouts but none applies to the UK) and one game per week gets the full on MATCH OF THE WEEK treatment with commentary by Tom O’Brannaigain. This week’s MOTW is Atletico Madrid vs THW Kiel on Sunday.
Handball Views has decided to cast its inexpert eye over today’s games. There are also direct links to the webstreams. Enjoy!
Group A: Chekhovskie Medvedi v RK Partizan (Live stream, 5.30PM UK)
Chekhovskie Medvedi made the Final 4 in 2010, the quarter finals in 2011 but last season, despite a positive points difference, could not make it past the group stages. They recorded four draws in their ten matches – all against teams that qualified. They are the dominant force in the Russian Super League though having claimed 10 domestic titles in the same number of years. The Serbs of RK Partizan (their team is entirely Serbian, that’s not just an expression) however lost all 10 of their matches and had to come through a qualifying tournament against weak opponents to make the main stages. We’ll go Russian with this one.
Group A: SG Flensburg-Handewitt v Montpellier (Live stream, 6PM UK)
Even without the minor matter of the French team being investigated for match fixing all eyes would probably be on this one. Montpellier have started the French season in scarily dominant form whereas Flensburg stuttered in their first Bundesliga challenge – drawing against HSV Hamburg (who are also in this group). But they’ve had 15 days to mull on that and tasted European success by winning the Cup Winners Cup last year. Whatever happens – and I have literally no idea – this should be a tough match although regardless of the result both teams should expect to qualify by beating their rivals in the division.
Group B: IK Sävehof – HCM Constanta (Live stream, 6PM UK)
Gothenburg’s finest take on the boys from Romania in Group B. They’re amongst the four teams battling for the remaining qualification places once THW and Atletico have taken their spots. IK got out of the group last year but lost heavily to AG Copenhagen; HCM Constanta are regulars in the group stages but don’t often make it beyond that and managed only 1 win from 10 in last year’s competition. Handball Views reckons it’ll be Swedish success tonight.
Group D: Kadetten Schauffhausen v Barcelona (Live stream, 7PM UK)
These two teams met in the group stages last year with Barcelona winning both matches and there’s a reason why Barcelona are 1/10 with the bookies to win in Switzerland tonight. It’s because they’re much, much, much better. Schauffhausen will have to hope to not fall behind early and try to niggle their way to a result. But it’ll be a big Barca win.
And it includes Viborg, home of Holly Lam-Moores. The team leading the Danish league were always favourites to qualify from the tournament they were hosting and whilst they had it tougher in the final against Vistal Laczpol Gdynia than many had thought they would they still had enough in the bag for a 26:22 win. Lam-Moores becomes the first Brit to play in the main stages of the Champions League.
U Jolidon Cluj of Romania also hosted a tournament and they too qualified. A close match against Rostov-Don of Russia ended with a 23:22 win for the home side who were cheered on by 2,500 spectators.
Hosts who didn’t make it through were Byasen Trondheim who despite 7 goals from Ida Alstad went down 26:22 to Buxtehuder of Germany and Issy Paris Hand who had to beat Zvezda Zvenigorod but instead lost 26:20.
The confirmed groups look like this:
Group A: Oltchim Rm. Valcea (Romania); Randers HK (Denmark); Hypo NÖ (Austria); Buxtehuder (Germany)
Group B: Györi Audi ETO (Hungary); Krim Mercator (Slovakia); Podravka Vegeta (Croatia); U Jolidon Cluj (Romania)
Group C: Larvik (Norway); Dinamo Volgograd (Russia); IK Savehof (Sweden); Rail Cargo Hungaria (Hungary)
Group D: Buducnost (Montenegro); Thüringer (Germany); Zvezda Zvenigorod (Russia); Viborg (Denmark)
Matches start on 13th and 14th October and all games will be shown live, although without commentary, on ehftv.com.
The only certainty is that FTC Rail Cargo Hungaria are through to the main group stages, the other four qualification places will be decided tomorrow.
The Hungarians followed their 40:26 first leg win over IUVENTA Michalovce with 31:22 one to ease to a 71:48 aggregate win – for everyone else there are finals to be played.
In Viborg it is Viborg who will play Vistal Laczpol Gdynia and the hosts must be favourites. Byasen Trondheim are another host who is through to their final and they face Buxtehuder of the Bundesliga – again I’ll back Scandanavia. The third group also saw the hosts proceed to the final: Cluj came from behind to overwhelm their Turkish opponents 34:26 and they now face Rostov-Don of Russia. I’ll back the Russians.
In the wild card tournament it’s two games played and one to go. Leipzig beat Issy Paris Hand by 5 but then lost by the same margin to Zvezda Zvenigorod. Tomorrow Issy play Zvezda. A Zvezda win in front of the French crowd would make it simple but if the home side win then we’ll be looking at points difference to see who proceeds. Again, I’m going for a Russian win though.
On a final note, the #battleofbritain twixt Holly Lam-Moores of Viborg and Kathryn Fudge of LC Bruehl finished even at 3-3 even though Viborg won the match 30:14.