Three of the four qualifiers are already set in stone in Women’s EHF Champions League Group 2, with Györi Audi ETO KC and Larvik assured of their top two places regardless of the result between the two sides on Sunday.
CSM Bucuresti are still in the race to defend their title after winning against RK Krim Mercator last week, but can place third or fourth, while the final ticket to the next phase will be decided with the Krim-Midtjylland clash.
• For the second season in a row CSM Bucuresti have earned a quarter-final berth, but cannot place higher than third in the group
• Krim and FC Midtjylland will tough it out for the last qualifying place in the group – though only a 10-goal win will be enough to put Slovenian the side through after they lost the first game 28:19
• Györ and Larvik are the only unbeaten teams in the main round alongside FTC, but will face off on Sunday following their draw in Hungary a month ago
GROUP 2 RK Krim Mercator (SLO) vs FC Midtjylland (DEN)
Saturday 11 March, 17:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com
For 45 minutes, Krim looked like they could match CSM’s firepower and pull off a major upset in Bucharest last week, but the Slovenian side ran out of gas in the final part of the game and were easily kept at bay.
The loss means they need to win by a 10-goal margin on Saturday if they are to progress to the next phase of the competition.
Krim entered the main round with six points, but lost all five games in one of their worst-ever runs in the Women’s EHF Champions League.
However, the Slovenian side welcomed back top scorer Elizabeth Omoregie in the game against CSM and her influence was clear, as she contributed four goals and unlocked Krim’s attack.
FCM can be expected to come out with their guns blazing after their first home defeat of the season. Larvik ended Midtjylland’s supremacy on their home court and relegated the Danish side to fourth place with their 28:24 win in the previous round – and FCM are now in theoretical danger of losing the quarter-final berth.
“Our objective was to qualify for the quarter-final phase of the Women’s EHF Champions League, and it is in our hands to do this. We have to play better in Krim,” said FCM’s line player Linn Blohm.
FCM can even claim third place in the rankings if they win against Krim and CSM lose versus Team Esbjerg.
Team Esbjerg (DEN) vs CSM Bucuresti (ROU)
Sunday 12 March, 15:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com
“It seems we are destined to play the role of underdogs,” said Isabelle Gullden before the final game of the main round for the title holders.
Last year CSM stumbled to fourth place in the main round, then won quarter-final games against Rostov and never looked back, clinching the title after an epic final versus Györ.
The Romanian side have yet again had a rollercoaster season, alternating spectacular wins against Rostov with epic meltdowns against Györ, FCM or Larvik.
But CSM have the chance to finish third in the group after FCM lost last week, and will be boosted by the news that Gullden signed another two-year contract, while goalkeeper Jelena Grubisic penned another one-year extension.
“CSM is the club where I feel excellent, thanks to the fans. Winning the Women’s EHF Champions League last season brought us more responsibility and, of course, we want to win it again,” said Gullden.
A win in Denmark, against the last-placed team in the group, would ensure CSM third place irrespective of FCM’s result on Saturday against Krim.
“I think both Vardar and FTC, our possible [quarter-final] opponents, are very good teams. I have seen them play and I think both teams are one of the best in the competition,” added Gullden.
The Romanian powerhouse will lose two key players in Linnea Torstensson and Carmen Martin at the end of the season, as they will leave for sunny Cote d’Azur to play for Nice.
Larvik (NOR) vs Györi ETO Audi KC (HUN)
Sunday, 12 March, 17:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com
Györ have already won the group thanks to another season with few mishaps, losing points only when they drew their home game against Larvik and lost away versus FCM.
The Hungarian side and the Norwegian champions are two of the three squads unbeaten in the main round, alongside FTC.
Larvik impressed against both CSM and Györ, the biggest favorites of the group, coming out with two draws and a home win against the title holders. With the momentum already high, Larvik’s arena is sold-out before the game against Györ.
Györ have the best attack in the main round with 279 goals scored in their nine games played, four goals better than Vardar.
But their main advantage is the amazing defence, by far the best in the competition, with only 209 goals against them in nine games – an average of 23.2 goals per game.