Germany remain No. 1 of EHF Cup power ranking
When Qualification Round 1 of the Men’s EHF Cup 2019/20 starts this weekend, the competition is going into its final season under the current format before proceeding as the European Handball League from 2020/21.
In 2012/13, Rhein-Neckar Löwen were the first winners under the current format - and in 2019/20, they look favourites to become the last winners as well.
Here is a look at 10 teams that are expected to leave their mark on the new EHF Cup season.
10. HC Metalurg
After eight successive years in the VELUX EHF Champions League, Metalurg are in the EHF Cup this season. The Macedonian team failed to make much of an impact in the EHF Champions League Group Phase last season and they will be eager to improve in a different environment.
9. Grundfos Tatabánya KC
Tatabánya are doing their utmost to show that Hungarian club handball is more than Telekom Veszprém HC and MOL-Pick Szeged, and last season their efforts brought them to the quarter-final of the EHF Cup, just like two years earlier. There is no reason why they couldn’t repeat the feat once again.
8. Chambéry Savoie Mont-Blanc Handball
Reaching the EHF Cup Finals in 2016 and the quarter-final last season, Chambéry have a fine record in the competition. Also, they finished third in the French league last season, which gives them reason to hope for more success in Europe this season.
7. TTH Holstebro
The team from western Denmark has been doing well in the EHF Cup many times. They reached the finals in 2012/13 and surprised many handball followers by repeating that achievement last season and gaining access to the AKQUINET EHF Cup Finals in Kiel. With the tactically clever Patrick Westerholm as head coach another race to the finals is definitely not out of the question.
6. MT Melsungen
Melsungen have no long European Cup tradition. In fact, two EHF Cup campaigns are their entire past experience in Europe. Both in 2014/15 and 2016/17 they reached the quarter-finals but failed to make it to the finals tournament. But a team finishing fifth in the German Bundesliga should always be the watch list.
5. Skjern Handbold
They were in the VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-final in 2017/18, but bowed out after the group phase last season and are now back in the EHF Cup, where their best result so far is third place in 2015. Skjern Handbold are the only team in this power ranking to enter the competition already in Qualification Round 2, so the Danish side are a bit more dependent on the draw than the others.
4. SC Magdeburg
The EHF Champions League winners from 2002 last won the EHF Cup back in 2007. They played at the finals in 2017 and 2018 but failed to lift the trophy again. Last season they even went out of the competition before the group phase, though losing to FC Porto Sofarma was no shame. This season the side from eastern Germany look strong again, with a promising roster and on the bench head coach Bennet Wiegert, who was part of the EHF Champions League winning team 17 years ago.
3. Füchse Berlin
On paper Füchse Berlin might not have a squad for a top-three finish in this competition - but the club has an incredible track record in recent EHF Cup seasons. They won the title in 2015 and again in 2018, and were part of the four-team finals in 2014, 2017 and 2019, when they lost the final to THW Kiel. In the EHF Cup, one can never rule out Füchse. Tradition and history should never be underestimated in sport.
2. HBC Nantes
They played the VELUX EHF Champions League Final only 15 months ago, and another quarter-final four months ago. But HBC Nantes are back in the EHF Cup this season for the first time in four years. It will be some kind of change for Nantes. However, the ambitious French club has done well in previous editions of the competition, reaching the finals in 2013 and 2016. The team does not look as strong as last year yet, but they are contenders to be reckoned with.
1. Rhein-Neckar Löwen
The German team won the EHF Cup in 2012/13, the first season with a finals tournament including the four best teams. After six years in the VELUX EHF Champions League, which they won in 2014 before going out in the Last 16 in each of the next five seasons, Rhein-Neckar Löwen are back in the EHF Cup and look a hot contender for the title. The has undergone some changes, not least on the bench, where Swedish national coach Kristjan Andrésson has succeeded his Danish colleague Nikolaj Jacobsen. So, some question marks remain before the start of the season but the Löwen look strong enough to be on top of this power ranking.Author: Peter Bruun / ew