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23.02.2018, 23:01◄ last page     


ROUND PREVIEW: The group phase of the Men’s EHF Cup reaches the halfway mark this weekend and seven of the matches are live on ehfTV
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EHF Cup Group Phase hits half-time buzzer

It is half-time in the group phase of the Men’s EHF Cup after this weekend, which sees all bar one of the encounters broadcast on ehfTV.com.

Once we reach Sunday night, all teams will have met their group rivals once and the standings will begin to reveal who the real contenders are.

· SC Magdeburg, Saint-Raphael Var Handball and Frisch Auf Göppingen are the only teams with maximum points ahead of the third rounf

· Fraikin BM. Granollers and Chambery Savoie Mont Blanc Hanball are also still undefeated

· Lugi HF, Cocks and Wacker Thun are the only pointless teams to date

GROUP A

Bjerringbro-Silkeborg (DEN) vs SKA Minsk (BLR)
Saturday 24 February 15:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

After their opening 27:19 win at home against TATRAN Presov, Bjerringbro-Silkeborg suffered a clear 33:26 away defeat against SC Magdeburg in their second group match.

In the meantime, they have had huge problems against the Danish league bottom side, TM Tønder, who were only narrowly defeated 32:31, before the home match against HC Midtjylland turned out to be an easier task, which resulted in a 38:19 win for Silkeborg.

Minsk put Magdeburg under pressure before losing 33:31, before scraping a 25:25 draw in Presov.

Through a home win Saturday afternoon, Silkeborg can take a major step towards the quarter-finals, while a win will be a major boost for the Belarusians.

Silkeborg may have an edge as they can welcome one of Denmark’s top goalkeepers, Sebastian Frandsen, back from injury.

“We simply must win. If not, it will be hard for us to go on from the group. We have to overpower Minsk,” Silkeborg left wing Lars Skaarup told his club’s website.

TATRAN Presov (SVK) vs SC Magdeburg (GER)
Saturday 24 February, 18:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

Presov nearly had a win in their pocket against SKA Minsk at home last weekend. Yet, the Slovakian champions let one point slip away and had to make do with a 25:25 draw.

Saturday night is likely to provide their toughest test yet as their opponents are none other than the undefeated top team of the group.

Presov coach Slavko Goluza is in no doubt, what kind of challenge is awaiting his team.

“Magdeburg are the best team in the group. They have a very good and experienced team and they are very fast in counter attacks.

“All I can say is that we are going to do our best,” promises Goluza.

GROUP B

Helvetia Anaitasuna (ESP) vs Füchse Berlin (GER)
Saturday 24 February, 19:00 local time

Both teams began their group phase campaign with a win and a loss.

After a narrow 34:32 win at home against Lugi HF, Anaitasuna lost heavily 36:27 away to group leaders Saint-Raphael, while Füchse also suffered a clear defeat to the French team.

Füchse lost 26:21 at home in their first match, but bounced back in their second game, away against Lugi, where they were seven goals down before winning 32:27.

The winner in the Pabellon Anaitasuna in Pamplona on Saturday evening will edge ahead in the race for the quarter-finals, while dark clouds will be gathering at the horizon for the defeated.

Lugi HF (SWE) vs Saint-Raphael Var Handball (FRA)
Sunday 25 February, 16:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

It is bottom against top in Sparbanken Skåne Arena in Lund on Sunday afternoon.

While Saint-Raphael have two straight and clear wins to show for so far, both of Lugi’s matches saw them knocking on the door without success.

The Swedish side’s first match, in Spain against Anaitasuna, was only lost narrowly 34:32, and at home against Füchse Berlin, Lugi were actually the better team for most of the clash..

Saint-Raphael, on the other hand, have left no doubt in their first two matches, winning 26:21 away at Füchse and 36:27 at home against Anaitasuna.

Despite playing away, the French side are favourites to take their third win in a row and will be full of confidence following their one-goal win over fellow French league contenders Nimes in midweek.

GROUP C

RD Koper (SLO) vs RK Nexe (CRO)
Saturday 24 February, 15:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

Both teams have a win and a defeat before Saturday’s meeting at Sportna Dvorana Bonifika in Koper, so both are still alive in pursuit of a quarter-final place.

Koper were not able to do much against Frisch Auf Göppingen, who left Slovenia with a clear 25:20 win last Saturday, while Nexe were trailing for 40 minutes at home against Cocks before winning 31:24 thanks to a strong finish.

Cocks (FIN) vs Frisch Auf Göppingen (GER)
Saturday 24 February, 17:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

Cocks are still chasing their first points, not only this season, but in EHF Cup group phase history as they went through their maiden season last year without earning a point.

Despite having had the lead for great parts of their first two matches, the Finnish champions’ chances of breaking their duck seems slim against the back-to-back champions, who won their first two matches and looked particularly convincing in their 25:20 away win against Koper last Saturday.

Göppingen have less than 48 hours to prepare for the match in Finland after losing 30:27 away against fellow EHF Cup hopefuls SC Magdeburg in the Bundesliga on Thursday evening.

GROUP D

KS Azoty-Pulawy SA (POL) vs Chambery Savoie Mont Blanc Handball (FRA)
Saturday 24 February, 16:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

In this close group, every point is crucial.

Group phase debutants Pulawy have two points, while 2016 EHF Cup Finals participants Chambery sit on three coming into this clash in the Globus Hall of Lublin.

Chambery might have wished for a better dress rehearsal than the 31:31 draw away against Tremblay in the French league on Wednesday, while Pulawy enjoyed more success that night after defeating Gwardia Opole 38:35 at home in the Polish league.

Wacker Thun (SUI) vs Fraikin BM. Granollers (ESP)
Sunday 25 February, 17:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

As the only team in the group still on zero points, Wacker Thun are obviously under the heaviest pressure with the halfway make looming.

Another defeat on Sunday in the Sporthalle Lachen will with almost certainty spell the end of the Swiss side’s hopes of progression from their first foray into the group phase.

Wacker will have their hands full against Granollers, who drew 30:30 in France against Chambery and who had no problems winning 32:26 at home against Pulawy last weekend.

However, it may give the current number five in the Spanish Liga Asobal reason to worry a bit, though, that they lost 28:26 at home to considerably lower placed Teucro on Wednesday night.

Wacker also suffered a defeat in their domestic league during the week, but their 28:24 away defeat to Kadetten Schaffhausen was less surprising.


TEXT: Peter Bruun / cor

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