Curtain rises for 2018 in Brest and Kiel
The first VELUX EHF Champions League matches of 2018 take place on Wednesday 7 February, both from Group B and both with a big part to play in the race for Last 16 places.
THW Kiel (GER) vs Telekom Veszprém HC (HUN)
Wednesday 7 February, 19:30 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com
Ljubomir Vranjes was a regular visitor to the Sparkassenarena with his former club SG Flensburg-Handewitt, but the Swedish coach will return for the first time at the helm of Veszprém this week. After a disappointing debut as Hungarian national team coach at the EHF EURO, where his team missed the main round, Vranjes will be eager to garner more success on club level.
Veszprém had won the reverse fixture on home court 26:24, but the visitors know that the away hurdle is much higher.
The pairing Kiel vs Veszprém is a classic in this competition, as the sides lock horns for the 18th time - the Hungarian record champions were victorious on 10 occasions, eight wins for THW, but only once did Veszprém conquer Kiel’s fortress, last season.
THW suffer from some injury problems, as Domagoy Duvnjak and Rene Toft Hansen will definitely miss this duel, while Christian Dissinger, Lukas Nilsson and Nikola Bilyk are doubts.
“In the worst case scenario, we only have one right-handed player in the back court,” says THW coach Alfred Gislason.
Veszprém’s Momir Ilic will face his former club, which is currently two points and one position below the visitors.
“To play at Kiel is one of the most difficult games in handball but it is also fun. We expect a great atmosphere in that big arena. We would like to get some points there but we know it is going to be difficult. If we get two points, it is a bonus,” says Vranjes.
HC Meshkov Brest (BLR) vs Aalborg Handbold (DEN)
Wednesday 7 February, 20:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com
Meshkov are boosted by their last result in the SEHA Liga, as they were the first team of this season to snatch a point from defending SEHA and VELUX EHF Champions League champions Vardar (25:25).
After five straight matches without a victory in October and November, the Belarusian champions managed to turn the tide in their last match of 2017, beating Celje 29:24. Now the team of head coach Sergej Bebeshko has the great chance to make a huge step towards the Last 16.
A repeat of the 23:20 win against Aalborg earlier this season would increase the gap between them and the Danish champions to five points and would put pressure on Celje, this makes Wednesday's encounter a must-win for Aalborg. These three teams are fighting for sixth place and the final Last 16 ticket in the group.
Author: Björn Pazen / cor