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16.02.2011, 11:20◄ last page     

Up to the minute information for the resumption of the VELUX EHF Men’s Champions League.

Competition re-education

24 participating teams, 36 matches still to be played, 16 teams go through to the next stage and only five teams of the VELUX EHF Men’s Champions League are already qualified for the Last 16.

After two postponed matches last week the VELUX EHF Champions League will now restart with the first of the last three rounds of the Group Phase over this weekend.

ehfCL.com took a look at the situation in the four groups. While one group is almost decided, another is still totally open concerning the four Last 16 participants. In the two remaining groups there is a clear indication on which might be the teams to go through.

Still nothing is yet decided in the question of which teams will finish on which position in the final table. The rank will be decisive for the composition of the first knock-out stage, that will be drawn on 7 March 2011 in Vienna.

The teams ranked first will meet the teams placed fourth, the second placed teams will face the third placed teams. Teams ranked first or second have the home right in the second leg matches of the Last 16.

Group A

Right after the draw Group A was named the “Group of death” as all six participants perform on highest level and two of them will have to miss the Last 16. And after seven rounds the teams have confirmed the prediction: None of the six teams is already qualified for the Last 16, all six clubs still have chances to go on.

Round 8 will bring one decision: After the match between RK Celje and Vive Targi Kielce, it will be known which team cannot reach the Last 16. Both opponents are equal in points (4), the loser will be out of the race.

On the other hand the two leading German teams THW Kiel and Rhein Neckar Löwen (10 points each) have very good chances to reach the knock-out stage. For both teams one point earned over this weekend would be enough to qualify this weekend. But the hurdles to jump are quite high: Kiel will play in Chambery and Löwen face Barcelona on home ground. Even as both Germans won the first encounters, they will need a strong performance.

If Barcelona win clearly in Mannheim, they go above the Germans with an equal amount of points and could even already qualify for the Last 16 under particular circumstances. Chambery have six points but the French team cannot lean back as both Kielce and Celje are on the hunt. So Group A will be tension-filled until the very last match.

Group B

The three top teams are already qualified for the Last 16 and the team ranked fourth need only one more point from their remaining three matches. A lot seems decided in Group B, but it will be a tough clash for the qualified teams to decide the final placement and thus get into a good starting position for the draw of the next stage.

MKB Veszprém were the first of all 24 teams to qualify for the knock-out stage, but they lost their last match in Hamburg, which also was their first defeat. The current leaders (12 points) from Hungary will have their last (and decisive) game at runners-up Montpellier (10 points).

The French champions are through to the Last 16, too. They will start against the third already known knock-out stage participant, HSV Hamburg (9 points). As those top three will have direct encounters, Kolding (ranked fourth, 8 points) could be a lucky winner. The Danes only need one point against Sävehof this weekend to qualify for the Last 16, later on they will face Veszprém and Hamburg.

As Tatran Presov (1 point) are already out of the race for the Last 16, Sävehof (2 points) will need to hope for quite a miracle in order to leapfrog Kolding.

Group C

Last season’s VELUX EHF FINAL4 participants Chekhovskie Medvedi are already qualified for the Last 16 thanks to Schaffhausen losing to Minsk at home in the postponed match. Having 11 points on their account, the Russians are closely ahead of Cuatro Rayas Valladolid (10 points).

Technically, the Spaniards could still miss the Last 16, even if they only need one more point in their next encounter against Minsk. Chekhov and Valladolid are the two favourite teams that will most probably fight for the first and second position.

Despite a huge number of changes in their team before the start of the season, Pick Szeged have the best base to finish on third place – or even better. With currently 8 points, the Hungarians will meet Schaffhausen, Aalborg and Valladolid. So in the last match they have fate in their hands to go above the Spaniards.

The race for fourth rank is quite open after Schaffhausen missed the “match ball” against Minsk last week. The Swiss champions (5 points) are only one point ahead of Minsk and Aalborg and have a tough program with upcoming matches against Szeged, Chekhovski and Valladolid. Another decision might be taken in the direct duel of Aalborg and Minsk in Round 9.

Group D

Renovalia Ciudad Real are the only unbeaten team among all 24 participants of the VELUX EHF Men’s Champions League, after six victories and one draw at RK Zagreb. The Spaniards (13 points) are qualified for the Last 16, but still have to face their two hunters SG Flensburg-Handewitt and RK Zagreb.

The Croats and the Germans are equal in points (10) and both only need one point in the remaining three matches to be part of the Last 16.

As the three top places seem to be decided, the race for the fourth rank seems to become a duel between HCM Constanta and HC St. Petersburg (4 points each). Bosna Sarajevo have only one point on their account, but mathematically they still could go on.

If the Russians and the Romanians remained equal in points until the end, St. Petersburg would be the lucky winners of this duel. In the direct encounters both teams won their home matches, but St. Petersburg have the better goal difference. Both rivals will face Bosna and Zagreb. St. Petersburg additionally meet Flensburg and Constanta have the high hurdle of Ciudad Real ahead.

TEXT: Björn Pazen

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