Decisive games for Velenje, Kadetten and Leon
The business end of the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase is in sight, with five teams in Group C still on the hunt for the two play-off berths.
With Skjern Handbold holding a two-point advantage over Rk Gorenje Velenje, Abanca Ademar Leon and Elverum Handball, the Danish side are in prime position to advance to the next phase.
No team has room for mistakes, but Leon has the toughest schedule, as they will host Skjern in the next round following a trip to Schaffhausen, where they face a team unbeaten at home.
• Kadetten lost all four away matches, while their six points came from three home games
• Leon’s resurgence is synonymous with Juan Jose Fernandez Sanchez’s comeback, as the left back scored 20 times in the last three games
• Velenje’s chances could receive a boost on Thursday when they meet Dinamo – an already-eliminated team who lost their last four games
Rk Gorenje Velenje (SLO) vs Dinamo Bucuresti (ROU)
Thursday 15 November, 19:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com
A tough 28:24 loss in Round 7 against Leon saw Velenje’s chances of progressing to the play-off phase decrease, as it means the Slovenian side would lose out if they finish on equal points with the Spanish team.
However, with their main opponents for a spot in the next phase, Elverum and Leon, facing crucial away games against Skjern and Schaffhausen, the Slovenian side could open a gap on the table standings with only two rounds left.
With two consecutive games looming in their arena Rdeca Dvorana, Velenje begin their consecutive home matches against Dinamo – a team that has lost their spirit and purpose.
The Romanian champions are already out of contention and lost the last four games in a row by an average of seven goals per game, including a 13-goal drubbing (36:23) at the hands of Skjern one week ago.
The outlook does not look good for Dinamo, who also lost leadership in the Romanian league after a 31:28 loss against archrivals Steaua Bucuresti on Sunday. Therefore, Velenje are the rightful favorites for the Round 8 clash, which is a must-win game for them.
“Against Leon, we were not a team that should have won. We lacked concentration and we also lacked attacking spirit.
“These are not things that should be repeated against Dinamo,” says Velenje coach Zeljko Babic.
The Slovenian side have already won in Bucharest (27:26) after a tough game in which Dinamo led at the break, but never looked on their way to a win.
Kadetten Schaffhausen (SUI) vs Abanca Ademar Leon (ESP)
Thursday 15 November, 20:15 local time, live on ehfTV.com
If they lose against Leon, Kadetten could be out of contention for a play-off spot on Thursday evening.
The Swiss side have become something of a mystery in the VELUX EHF Champions League, as their home form is perfect, but their four consecutive away losses have hampered their chances of progressing.
It is a tale of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde with Kadetten. They are a team that can beat the best in their own BBC Arena – recording home wins against Skjern, Velenje and Elverum – and lose against the worst in the group in away games.
Therefore, the game against Leon is a must-win for the Swiss side, after they lost 26:22 against Elverum last week. There is no room for error for Kadetten, who have two home games in the last three rounds and will end the group phase against already-eliminated Dinamo.
In-form Leon are travelling to Schaffhausen after three consecutive wins, though two of them were in home games. The Spanish team have a difficult schedule to end the group phase, as they will host current group leaders Skjern and play away against Elverum in the last round.
Left back Juan Jose Fernandez Sanchez is sure to feature again for Leon – it is no coincidence that the Spanish team started to improve their play after he returned from a lengthy injury. The 24-year-old sharpshooter scored 20 times in the last three games and Kadetten’s defence will therefore prepare accordingly.
After playing only three matches, Fernandez is just five goals behind Leon’s top scorer Mario Lopez Alvarez, who has been on court for all seven rounds.