|08.10.2010, 10:52||◄ last page|
ehfCL.com presents a complete preview of the first round of the EHF Women’s Champions League, which begins on Saturday.
The EHF Women’s Champions League is kicking off at the weekend with eight exciting games. There are some debutants with great ambition in this year’s CL campaign, while some of the more familiar clubs have strengthened their squads. To bring you up-to-date with what looks to be the most balanced season ever, here’s our complete preview of all 8 weekend games:
Buducnost Podgorica – Dinamo Volgograd
These teams appeared in the same group in last year’s EHF Champions League competition.
Since then, the home team of Podgorica has been strengthened by the arrival of world class player Bojana Popović, who moved from CL title holder Viborg HK. With her in their ranks, Buducnost is aiming for the heights this season. The club wants to take revenge on their counterparts for last year’s disappointing performance, when they lost by 13 goals away from home, and missed qualification to the Main Round.
Dinamo on the other hand have only minor changes to their squad since last summer, and so will rely mainly on the same players. The Russian team hopes to improve its away form of last year, as they only gathered one point in six away CL performances.
IK Sävehof - Viborg HK
The Swedish club plays in the CL for the first time since 2007/2008 after an impressive qualification tournament, and on Match Day 1, they’ll face none other than the CL title holder from Denmark.
Many classy players have left the Danes who have had to build a new team for this year´s CL campaign. Even so, experts who know Viborg HK coach Jakob Vestergaard well, believe he has great ambition for this season too. Following the departure of Bojana Popović, Vestergaard will turn to the world class Carmen Amariei who shined with her excellent performances in both defence and attack for Romania at the recent World Cup in Aarhus.
The Swedes find themselves in a tough group, as each of their opponents are strong and with high aims, but their impressive performance in qualification and the fast handball they’re playing, suggest they can cause some problems for the other three teams. Furthermore, Sävehof will have the support of many visitors in their arena as it’ll be a double-header handball event - the men’s team are also playing at home in their Champions League.
Itxako Reyno De Navarra – HC Leipzig
Itxako, a dark horse for a semi-final spot, meets the German champion of Leipzig on home soil.
The Spaniards had a very tough group last season, as they met Valcea and Győr - two of the semifinalists - at the Group Phase. Despite excellent game plans, they didn’t qualify for the Main Round. They now have some quality reinforcements (Turey, Soit, Martín etc.) and their back player Alexandrina Barbosa, is eligible this year to play in the Champions League.
Nevertheless, Leipzig, with two years experience in the CL ’business’, hopes for a surprise in Spain. It won’t be an easy match for them though, as Itxako plays an unusual, aggressive style of handball which is seldom performed by women’s teams in other parts of Europe. Also, Leipzig has struggled recently in the Bundesliga, losing their Wednesday game against Thüringer HC by 3 goals, and with home advantage, Itxako is expected to win comfortably.
DVSC-Korvex – Hypo Niederösterreich
Hungary’s Debrecen, first time ever in the CL, will meet record-winner Hypo-NÖ from Austria in Saturday’s evening game.
After the resignation of manager Gunnar Prokop, lots of things have changed with the Austrians, and without the planned international transfers, they have set new objectives for the upcoming season and want to promote young talents. Some of their experienced players, such as Terese Pedersen, Dani Piedade and Marion Limal are out with injuries, so it’ll be a hard task to stand firm against the success-hungry Hungarians. However, the young team of coach Martin Matuschkowitz, that still includes the world’s best right winger, Ale Nascimento, showed great fighting spirit in the friendly games in pre-season. The question remains whether this will be enough for the Champions League.
On the other side, the host team of DVSC burns for success. Their management has targeted the next stage of the CL, and to realise this goal, the team of Vilmos Köstner wants to win all of their home games.
The match will take place in Debrecen’s biggest arena, the Főnix, and the local team will count on thousands of handball-crazy supporters to provide a backdrop of loud cheering in the hall.
Randers HK – C.S. "Oltchim" Rm. Valcea
The second-ranked team from Denmark in the competition, Randers HK will face, on Match Day 1, last year’s CL finalist, Oltchim Valcea.
The home team has the potential to upstage the favourites of Valcea and Larvik and steal points, but Randers is in a very tough group where they’ll meet two of the favourites for the title. Without CL experience this mission will be difficult, but not impossible!
The Danes have built their team with domestic national team players such as Mie Augustesen, Camilla Dalby, Berit Kristensen and Mette Melgaard, together with experienced ’foreign’ internationals (Chana Masson, Nina Wörz, Jelena Erić). The star team of Valcea, though, might just be too strong for them to collect points in the opening round.
A really classy playmaker was missed last season, so in the summer, the Romanians were strengthened when high-profile middle back Yeliz Özel arrived, together with coach Péter Kovács, from Turkey. Also, in the last minute, Valcea signed gifted left-handed back Melinda Geiger. She is showing great potential and can become a future asset of the club when right back Steluta Luca retires. With their large squad and reinforcements the Romanians remain clear favourites in this duel.
The game will be broadcasted live on our free of charge web stream on ehfTV.com on Saturday at 2.30 pm.
Toulon Saint Cyr Var Handball – Larvik HK
A Champions League beginner faces the ’Norwegian national team’ in the Sunday match of Group C.
Yes, indeed, Larvik is building its new team around Norwegian national team members, nearly 10 of them appear in the squad list. During the summer, the management signed Gro Hammerseng and Linn-Kristin Riegelhuth, both returning home from Denmark, and have the clear target for this season of reaching the CL final. The game against Toulon of France should actually be a walkover for Larvik.
Toulon, a surprising new champion in France, having stopped the long domination of Metz in the French league, is a beginner on the CL campaign. This year will be a clear learning experience for them, as they have never met such strong opponents as Larvik or Valcea. It would be a surprise if they could collect a point from Sunday’s duel.
Zvezda Zvenigorod – Győri AUDI ETO KC
As last season, the two clubs share the same group, and as Győr disappointingly lost in Russia in last year’s first round, the team of Csaba Konkoly hope for a better start this time.
Despite a stronger squad, due to the addition of Katrine Lunde Haraldsen and Ana Gros, and a good start in their domestic league, the Hungarians lost their pivot and main pillar in defence last weekend. Simona Spiridon will be out for a few weeks due to an injury, which will cause some headaches for their head coach, Konkoly, who now has to re-organise his team’s defence.
Zvezda’s coach Evgeny Trefilov is again in the phase of re-building his team, and has added several youngsters to his squad, among them the 20 year old Anna Sen. She may become the biggest asset of this year’s CL, as she performed marvelously in the preparation games and in the junior national team of Russia. Zvezda, with their world class back, Postnova, had a disappointingly weak rehearsal on Wednesday, as they lost on home soil against Rostov Don, 21:22. TheRussians are looking for an improved performance and a good start to their CL campaign.
HC Podravka Vegeta - RK Krim
These two teams know each other very well, as they already met last month in the preparation phase. The Croats beat the Slovenians by one goal in an extremely fast-paced game. Nevertheless it’ll be a new and different game in the first round of the Champions League.
The home club lost their biggest asset, Andrea Penezić, to Krim, so it’ll be interesting to see how she’ll perform against her old team. Krim’s super star, Andrea Lekić, is back in good shape after her spring injury, so coach Marta Bon can make use of Lekić’s virtuosity and genius on court again. The only player missing from Krim’s side will be strong shooter Szandra Zácsik, who is still recovering from her long-term injury. Her replacement, Penezić, has similar qualities and should compensate well.
Podravka have been reinforced, with new coach Neven Hrupec, some players from domestic rival Lokomotiva Zagreb, and youngsters, such as Sandra Nikčević, joining the club. With these new players, the coaching staff in Koprivnica is forming a strong unit that has already impressed with some great results in the gathering phase.
For sure, it’ll be a splendid handball event. Besides the local fans, lots of supporters are expected from nearby Ljubljana. Drums are already being warmed in Slovenia, so the fast-paced game will be played against a wall of sound in the Sportska dvorana of Koprivnica.
TEXT: Márk Hegedüs