01.03.2018, 17:50◄ last page     

QUARTER-FINAL PREVIEW: Eight teams from six countries continue to fight for the Women's EHF Cup on Saturday

Super Saturday of quarter-finals in Romania and Scandinavia

The Women’s EHF Cup resumes with a packed schedule on Saturday 3 March, with all four quarter-final first leg matches taking place that day.

Two clashes can be found in Romania and the other two in Scandinavia.

• Six countries are represented in the quarter-finals

• Only Romania and Norway have two teams left

• Lada’s Daria Dmitrieva is the competition's top scorer with 46 goals


SCM Craiova (ROM) vs Handball Club Lada (RUS)
Saturday 3 March, 17:00 local time

Despite playing their just second season in European Cup competitions and their first in the EHF Cup, Craiova have shown they belong at this level.

Reaching the group stage at the expense of Hungary's Debrecen was already quite a success for the Romanian side and they made a historic step to the quarter-final, progressing from the competitive Group A ahead of Kuban and Randers.

However, now Craiova face a high hurdle as Lada are regarded as one of the favourites for the competition. Despite the absence of their head coach Levon Akopyan due to health problems, the Russian team has lived up to expectations during the group phase, winning five of six matches and finishing top of Group B.

Lada's captain Daria Dmitrieva has been the team's lethal weapon as she currently tops the scoring chart of the tournament with 46 goals.

The Togliatti-based team are favourites against SCM, yet it will not be easy for Lada, especially in Romania. Craiova are particularly strong on home court, where they have beaten all three rivals in the group, notably including another Russian side Kuban.

"We have studied Craiova, they are a well-trained team and very mobile, especially in defence. The Romanian side have two leaders, a left back and right wing, who score ten goals almost in every match. If we manage to stop them, everything should be OK. If not, it will be tough," said Lada's coach Alexandr Khomutov.

Vipers Kristiansand (NOR) vs Brest Bretagne Handball (FRA)
Saturday 3 March, 17:00 local time

Both teams began the season in the EHF Champions League, but did not succeed there and jumped to the EHF Cup, where they enjoy better results.

That said, Vipers had an awful start in the group phase, suffering three straight defeats, yet then they pulled off a minor miracle, winning the three remaining games and progressing to this stage.

Now the Norwegian club expects another big challenge. “We have to be at our best on Saturday and play a very good game. If we do, there is a high likelihood that we can beat Brest at home,” says Vipers head coach Kenneth Gabrielsen.

“People usually say that they have to win by five or six goals at home, but we should first and foremost focus on simply winning the match. That is what it is about, we are playing a quarter-final of the EHF Cup.”

Brest topped Group A with eight points, but while the French side had a perfect record at home, they enjoyed less success away from home, losing twice.

Rock-solid defence seems to be the key for the team's success as they conceded the least amount of goals of all group phase participants (117). By defending well, Brest could make up for relatively poor scoring numbers - 139 goals is the lowest total among the remaining eight.

In their group, Vipers finished one point above third-placed Issy and will now hope to account for another French side.

Viborg HK (DEN) vs Larvik (NOR)
Saturday 3 March, 16:00 local time

The Scandinavian derby is expected to be a highlight of the round, featuring two big handball powers. While Viborg are three-time Champions League winners, Larvik triumphed in the continental top flight in 2011.

Following the elimination of Randers and Koebenhavn, Viborg are the only Danish team left in the competition. Although they are probably not the favourites against Larvik, head coach Allan Heine was quite enthusiastic after the quarter-final draw.

“It will be cool. We talk a lot about the fact that we are a young team who should keep developing. We must play a classic against Larvik, as Viborg have played so often in the past in crucial situations with much at stake. Now we get a little taste of greatness from both clubs, and it's nice to be a part of it,” he said.

For Larvik, who had started the season in the Champions League, playing in the EHF Cup is a good chance to show themselves in a good light. By becoming the first team to secure a quarter-final spot with two group matches to go, they confirmed their status as one the favourites to win the trophy.

“It will be tough to play Viborg, but I think this opponent suits us because we play in a similar way,” said Larvik's left wing Thea Mork.

Larvik scored 166 goals in the six group games, matched only by fellow Norwegian team Byasen. However, Viborg managed to beat Byasen twice in their group, contributing to their elimination.

H.C.Zalau (ROM) vs Kastamonu Belediyesi GSK (TUR)
Saturday 3 March, 17:00 local time

At the same time as Craiova’s match against Lada, another Romanian side Zalau play their first leg game at home.

The two clubs were scheduled to meet on Wednesday in a domestic league match, but that clash was postponed due to bad weather conditions.

Similar to Craiova, Zalau finished second in Group D with eight points, and they won all their three home matches. They hope to continue that form on home court to build a solid advantage in the first leg against Kastamonu.

Zalau have already faced a Turkish opposition this season, eliminating Ankara in Qualification Round 2 (26:21, 24:21).

Yet Kastamonu are rivals of a different calibre. They were the revelation of the group phase, surprisingly topping Group C ahead of Viborg and Byasen.

Kastamonu boast the second-best attack among the quarter-finalists (166 goals in the group stage), and their veteran Serpil Iskenderoglu is the second best scorer of the tournament with 42 goals, so Zalau will be putting extra emphasis on defence.

“At this stage, all teams are strong. I studied Kastamonu, and most of the squad is international. They achieved some very good results, but we have a chance. If we make it to the semi-finals, it will be something extraordinary," says Zalau's head coach Gheorghe Tadici.

TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / cor

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