After nearly 4 months of waiting, VELUX EHF Champions League is back today. 28 European clubs are ready to start their journey to fight for the title of the best handball team in Europe. We saw two incredible upsets in the previous two season, with Vardar shocking the world in 2017, and Montpellier lifting the trophy in equally impressive fashion in 2018. The season is very long, and we are finally ready to start the long road to Cologne. This year, the SEHA – Gazprom League is proud to have five clubs competing in the most elite club handball competition! Vardar, PPD Zagreb and Meshkov Brest will play in Groups A&B, whilst Metalurg and Tatran are a part of the Group C. The first round matches are as follows!
Four matches are scheduled for today, but the first SEHA club to taste the action will be Tatran Presov on Saturday. Slavko Goluza's side is traveling to Turkey and will play against Besiktas Mogaz at 16:30 CET. Besiktas were a part of the competition last year too, but Tatran played in the EHF Cup. The Slovakians started the season with one win and two narrow losses in the SEHA – Gazprom League, including a one-goal loss against Vardar. The two teams are very evenly matched, but it remains to be seen how will Goluza line up his squad with all the injury problems Tatran have been dealing with lately.
Saturday will also bring us the rematch of the semi-final from last season's Final 4. The reigning champions will Montpellier will host the 2017 champions Vardar, at 17:30 CET. Vardar have started the season with a pretty different roster, but the new coach- Garcia Parrondo recorded three wins in three matches, so far in the SEHA – Gazprom League. However, there is no doubt they have been focusing on the match in France, as it is crucial to start the competition well, especially if Vardar want to reach Cologne for the third straight season.
Third Saturday encounter brings us already a must-win match for Meshkov Brest. Cadenas' squad is traveling to Sweden to play Kristianstad. The Belarusians have been put in maybe the toughest possible group- along with Vardar, RN Loewen, Barcelona Lassa, Montpellier, Telekom Veszprem and Vive Kielce. Meshkov will need to beat Kristianstad at 19:30 CET in Sweden if they want to be in the possible position to reach the next stage.
Metalurg are also in action on Saturday at 19:30 CET. The club from Skopje is traveling to Portugal to play Sporting for the second consecutive season. Last year, the lost by four goals in Lisbon, but Jaganjac and company will hope to cause an upset this weekend. Metalurg started poorly, with 3 losses, in the SEHA – Gazprom League, so a good result would be much-needed, especially in the EHF Champions League!
PPD Zagreb will start their European journey in Osijek, where they host the sensational Hungarian champions MOL-Pick Szeged. They were together in last season's EHFCL Group, and the Hungarians were better in both matches. Also, Pick Szeged won the last five mutual encounters and are the favourites entering the match. However, PPD Zagreb have won their last two matches in the SEHA – Gazprom League, and will try to continue their solid form. Ivan Srsen will be the player to watch, as he played for Pick Szeged last year, and was very important in winning the title in Hungary.
Mark your calendars, the Champions League is back!
Saturday, September 15th
16:30 Besiktas Mogaz – Tatran Presov (Group C)
17:30 Montpellier – Vardar (Group A)
19:30 Kristianstad – Meshkov Brest (Group A)
19:30 Sporting – Metalurg (Group C)
Sunday, September 16th
20:00 PPD Zagreb – MOL-Pick Szeged (Group B)