Veszprem against Porto, Nexe can seal first place in group D
The penultimate rounds of the group phase in the Machineseeker EHF Champions League and the EHF European League are ahead this week - and PPD Zagreb even play twice, at home against SC Magdeburg and at FC Porto. Telekom Veszprem must beat FC Porto to remain in the race for a top spot. In the European League, Nexe can seal the first position in their group, while Eurofarm Pelister and Tatran Presov each face German clubs. Besides, Vojvodina have reached the quarter-finals of the European Cup.
Machineseeker EHF Champions League
After their match at Porto was postponed last week, PPD Zagreb have two matches ahead this week - and in the optimum case can already book their ticket for the play-offs. On Wednesday PPD host German champions SC Magdeburg - and if Zagreb win, this would be parallel an important help for Telekom Veszprem in their fight for the direct spot in the quarter-finals. Magdeburg beat Veszprem last week and are equal in points with the Hungarian SEHA - Gazprom League participant.
Zagreb are currently on the sixth rank with one point more than Orlen Wisla Plock, but the match played less. PPD had lost the first duel at Magdeburg 25:35 (with Csaba Leimeter as top scorer by five strikes), but since Slavko Goluza is their new coach, Zagreb clearly improved. The two top scorers of both opponents on Wednesday are among the top 10: Zagreb’s Timur Dibirov scored 61 goals in 11 matches, Magdeburg’s Iceland Gisli Kristjansson netted 71 times in 12 games and is currently second ranked.
Only four days after facing the German side, Zagreb travel to Porto - Veszprem’s next opponent. If Plock lose against top team PSG and Zagreb take two points in the matches against Magdeburg and Porto, then they proceed to the play-offs already before the last round, when PPD face GOG from Denmark. PPD have good memories on Porto, as the 29:23 win in the first duel in September - including ten goals of Timur Dibirov were their first points of the Champions League season.
Telekom Veszprem do not have their fate in their hands after the defeat at Magdeburg, but still can hope to finish second or even first in the group. Therefore, the team of Momir Ilic need to win both remaining matches against Porto and Paris and have to hope that either Magdeburg lose on match or PSG lose both matches. Veszprem did not win any of their last three Champions League matches, but still are the favourites against the last ranked side from Porto. In the first duel with Porto, Veszprem easily took the points, winning 35:28, when Petar Nenadic was the top scorer by seven goals.
Wednesday, 22 February (20:45 CET) PPD Zagreb - SC Magdeburg
Thursday, 23 February(18:45 CET): Telekom Veszprem - FC Porto
Sunday, 26 February (time TBD): FC Porto - PPD Zagreb
EHF European League
If Nexe beat Alpla Hard from Austria and Sporting Lisbon do not win at Balatonfured in Hungary, the Nasice-based team would already be confirmed winners of group D - before the top duel in the last round at Lisbon. After easily winning at Balatonfured last week, the team of head coach Branko Tamse again is a favourite against Hard, the only team in the whole competition without any victory by now. Nexe had won the first duel clearly by 34:25 at Hard, when Fahrudin Melic (8) and Marin Jelinic (7) were the top scorers. Nexe have 14 points on their account, Hard only one.
In contrast to Nexe, Eurofarm Pelister are the clear underdogs in their duel at Fuchse Berlin, the only team of the whole competition, which won all eight group matches by now, including the first duel at Bitola (43:34). After giving a point from their hands against Aguas Santas, Eurofarm Pelister need a miracle to take a point or two. Currently, the team of Lars Walther is fourth-ranked, two points ahead of Aguas Santas - if the Portuguese side lose at Skanderborg and Motor Zaporozhye do not beat Bidasoa Irun, Eurofarm Pelister would book their Last 16 ticket, regardless the result at Berlin and before their last group match against Motor.
Can Tatran Presov cause another major surprise in group A? One week after their sensational 35:27 victory against top team Montpellier Handball, now the Slovak champions host German side Frisch Auf Goppingen. By another win the team of new head coach Marek Gernat can level in the table with currently fourth-ranked defending champions Benfica from Lisbon. But if Tatran fail against Goppingen, the dream is over - and the visitors will be highly motivated, as thanks to Presov’s win against Montpellier, they still can finish on top of group A. The first leg of both ended by a 34:24 win for Goppingen - a team, which also changed their coach during the season to former German national team captain Markus Baur.
Tuesday, 21 February (18:45 CET): Tatran Presov - Frisch Auf Goppingen
Tuesday 21 February (20:45 CET) Fuchse Berlin - Eurofarm Pelister
Tuesday, 21 February (20:45 CET) Nexe - Alpla Hard
Despite a 33:37 (18:18) defeat in the second leg at Norwegian sidelOIF Arendal, Vojvodina have clinched their berth for the quarter-finals after winning the first leg at home 42:29. Vojvodina’s overall victory was never endangered, the biggest gap were five goals. Luka Rogan was Vojvodina’s top scorer by six goals, Gregor Ocvirk and Barys Pukhouski added five goals each for the Serbian side. The quarter-final matches are scheduled for 18/19 and 25/26 March.