EHFCL Round 9 preview: Meshkov, Celje and Vardar all face Bundesliga teams
Round 9 brings us 3 matches in which SEHA-Gazprom League teams meet the clubs from the German Bundesliga. Meshkov travel to Kiel, the Slovenian champions Celje will host Flensburg and Vardar is once again going to play against the German champions Rhein-Neckar Loewen. Apart from those three, we have a few more interesting matches featuring teams from the SEHA- Gazprom League.
On Thursday at 19:00, Arena Zagreb is going to be the home of the Croatian champions PPD Zagreb. After a narrow defeat in France, PPD Zagreb replaced Kasim Kamenica with Zlatko Saracevic as their new head coach. The match against Barcelona on Thursday will be his first one. Zagreb played well against Nantes, they were definitely able to take some positives from that match, but still came home without a point. That means Zagreb only has 2 points after 8 rounds, whilst Barcelona have 10. After a brilliant start, Barcelona recorded only one win in the last 4 Champions League matches, defeating Zagreb at home. Their form has not been great recently, but they are still a really strong side, and are the favorites coming into the match.
Weekend’s action is continued with a match in Skopje. Metalurg host Motor Zaporozhye, but will feel no pressure of achieving a great result as they only have 5 points after 8 matches. Motor on the other side, hold the second spot in Group D with 11 points, behind only Montpellier. The Ukrainian side has been playing really well this season, and have a strong chance of reaching the next stage of the competition. It will be another good test for the young Metalurg squad, knowing they were able to draw against Motor Zaporozhye away. Given their recent poor form, Metalurg will probably focus more on getting a good performance, rather than winning a point or two.
On Saturday, Meshkov will play the first out of three SEHA vs Bundesliga matches. They are traveling to Kiel to face the team that beat Celje last week, after losing to them the week before. Kiel have definitely not been as good as we came to expect, only winning 3 matches in this season’s Champions League. Meshkov started the season well, but are currently on a 3-game losing streak. One of those losses came against Kiel in Brest, losing by one goal. Meshkov currently hold the 6th position in the group, but they have to start winning some points, as 5 points likely will not be enough to reach the next stage. A positive result in Kiel would be a major step forward.
Another Saturday match will be Gorenje Velenje versus the Swiss side Kadetten Schaffhausen. In 4 home matches so far, Gorenje have recorded 4 wins and that probably makes them the favorites against Kadetten. The Swiss team is on a 3-game losing streak, and have 6 points, putting them in 5th place of the Group C. One of their 3 wins did come against Gorenje, in early October. Their chances of progressing further are looking very slim at this point. Opposite of Kadetten, the Slovenian team has 10 points and is the 2nd in the standings. Winning this match would be massive, as Ademar Leon and Elverum are very much in contention for a place in the next round.
The first Sunday match will see Celje host Flensburg. The two teams played once this season and the German team won the home match 33:28. The Slovenian champions only have 5 points so far and it is looking likely either them or Meshkov will go to the next round from the 6th spot in Group B. Flensburg are having a very good season so far; they are second in the group, ahead of Veszprem and Vive Kielce. It will be a very interesting match, as Celje played two excellent matches against Kiel, winning once and recording a very narrow loss in the second match. Flensburg are also in very good form, currently riding a 3-game winning streak. Important match for both clubs.
Sunday is also going to see a rematch between Vardar and Rhein-Neckar Loewen. Vardar won the match in Skopje 30:26 and played one of the best matches of the season, even though their performances so far have been amazing. They gave RN Loewen their first Champions League loss of the season. That means Vardar and Montpellier are the only undefeated teams in the competition, so the German champions will have a huge motive to get revenge. Playing against the reigning champions is never an easy task, especially when they play as well as Vardar. It will be the hardest test of the season for Raul Gonzalez and his team.
Thursday November 23rd
19:00 PPD Zagreb- Barcelona-Lassa
Saturday November 25th
17:30 Metalurg- Motor Zaporozhye
17:30 THW Kiel- Meshkov Brest
19:30 Gorenje Velenje- Kadetten Schaffhausen
Sunday November 26th
17:00 Celje Pivovarna Lasko- Flensburg- Handewitt
19:00 Rhein- Neckar Loewen- Vardar