Decisive points to collect before half-timeArticle
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Preview of all Main Round matches from Round 3 of the EHF Women's Champions League.

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Decisive points to collect before half-time

Two rounds have already been played and with one more round this coming weekend, it’ll be half-time in the EHF Champions League Main Round for the Top 8 women’s teams.

In Group 1 everything remains open, as all four teams have two points in their bank, whilst Group 2 is dominated by Norwegian champion Larvik HK and Hungary’s Audi ETO Győr.

In Round 3 those two teams will face each other in the 'Battle of the Titans', the most highly anticipated game of the weekend. The winner will already have one foot in the semi-final.

Group 1

Oltchim Rm. Vâlcea (ROU) vs. RK Krim Ljubljana (SLO)
Sunday 20 February 2011, 18:00 hrs (local time)

Both teams lost their matches last weekend, so they are looking forward to ironing out mistakes and by securing a victory, to move one step closer to the desired semi-final spot.

Anja Andersen’s coachion career in Romania continued with a nightmare in Estella, as her side lost to Itxako by a single goal after having dominated the game for a long period.

Yeliz Özel and Valentina Ardean Elisei repeated their impressive first round performance and Oltchim were already on the winner’s path, but the Spaniards fought back with great confidence and turned the game in the dying seconds.

“The match went well, but when the opponent decreased the difference goal by goal, we were not able to change our tactics. It was pressure and fear on us at the same time,” commented the loss Andersen. In the coach’s opinion “we will need such matches to become an unbeatable team.”

After the loss, Andersen was harshly criticized for not using her players at their normal positions, but instead, changing them. In the Danish coach’s opinion her girls should be multi-functional players, an idea given to her in Slagelse’s time by the world-class Ausra Fridrikas, Andersen’s former star player.

Except for Adina Fiera, who suffered a small injury against Budućnost, everyone is fit and ready and Oltchim look forward to not disappointing their loyal spectators on home soil.

On the other side, Krim’s head coach Marta Bon is more focused on her team, than on the new coach of the opponent: “Issues concerning exchanges of coaches at other clubs are not our problem, and so we do not deal with them.”

Bon has been satisfied with Krim’s performance in the Main Round: “I’m pleased with the results so far. It was our desire to win on home soil in the Arena Stožice against Itxako. And Podgorica? Well, the best scenario would have been to collect some points there as well, but unfortunately many factors hindered us from achieving this aim.”

“I believe that all teams will have massive difficulties to win in the Morača Sports Center,” the coach added.

About the expectations against the Romanian champions, she added: “Our thoughts are currently focused on organizing ourselves as well as possible for this game, our attack, the co-ordination between the players and the defence. If we succeed with this, then it’s not important which opponent we face.”

Itxako Reyno De Navarra (ESP) vs. Budućnost Podgorica (MNE)
Sunday 20 February 2011, 19:00 hrs (local time)

Both teams have had one victory and one defeat, so in this very equal group, every point can be decisive. Therefore Itxako hope to maintain their positive home record, whilst the Montenegrin champions hope to collect important away points.

The home victory against Oltchim was very important for the Spaniards, but it is not enough to reach any objective of the season. The game has improved the team’s situation and increased the morale among Itxako’s players, but the upcoming weekend game is considered as decisive by coach Ambros Martín.

The results of last weekend’s matches indicate a tight group and a tough race for the two semi-final spots. Home victories will be necessary to achieve this aim, and slip-ups will cause chances to decrease and semi-final dreams to evaporate.

Coach Martín is fully aware of this, but his team is suffering several injury problems before hosting Budućnost.

Among others, left-back Nerea Pena has not recovered yet from her muscular problems and both Emiliya Turey and Cabral Barbosa were not able to perform 100% last weekend, but will try to recover for the upcoming matches.

Itxako’s counterpart Budućnost showed an improved performance last weekend and despite several injured players (Gabriella Kindl, Sanela Knezović, Ana Radović and Suzana Lazović) the Montenegrins didn’t have problems beating Krim.

Their defence stood well, goalkeeper Sonja Barjaktarović was an impressive replacement for Knezović, and the wing players had a more influential role than in Râmnicu Vâlcea.

“There were minor mistakes because of excessive desire, but also some good combinations and I saw some progress in our game. Still, much more will be needed in Spain,” commented Budućnost coach Dragan Adžić.

Group 2

Larvik HK (NOR) vs. Audi ETO Győr (HUN)
Saturday 19 February 2011, 17:45 hrs (local time)

A tough clash with fantastic handball and a record-breaking number of spectators is expected in Larvik, where the home team welcomes the Hungarian champions from Győr.

Both teams have won their first two games in the Main Round and Saturday’s winner will establish a good base for securing a spot in the EHF Champions League semi-final.

In the opener, Larvik had starting trouble against a strong Leipzig side in Germany, but then crushed Russia’s Dinamo in Norway: “Against the Russians, the whole team had a superb day on court and we played really well in defence, helping goalkeeper Cecilie Leganger to a top performance,” analyzed Norwegian pivot Heidi Løke.

“It also needs to be added that Volgograd missed some of their star players,” added the line player.

The Hungarians also made a slow start and there are still several errors in the game plan of Csaba Konkoly’s team: “To stand a chance away, we will have to perform much better in attack and score with maximum efficiency from clear-cut situations - something we failed to do against Leipzig,” said Győr’s Simona Spiridon.

In Spiridon’s opinion, the defence that worked so well against the Germans will be the key factor on this weekend’s clash.

The same thought is underlined by Løke who also went for a prediction for the semi-final: “I think that the team with the better defence will celebrate victory on Saturday. However, I’m also confident that both teams will participate in the semi-final.”

An interesting aspect for the 28-year-old Norwegian is that, from the summer, she’ll change club to play for the Hungarians: “I’m very excited to play against my soon-to-be club Győr, but for this season, I’m still a Larvik player and I’ll give 100% effort for them to win this match.”

Another interesting fact for the 'Battle of the titans' is that Konkoly’s team already includes a grandiose player from Norway, none other than star goalkeeper Katrine Lunde Haraldsen, who will face several of her team-mates from the national team as opponents: “Of course we fear her a bit as she’s one of the best goalkeepers in the world,” said Løke.

In Spiridon’s opinion, a real fight and a tough clash is awaited, where minor things will decide the outcome: “We know each other very well and at this high level it’s hard to predict anything. The day form will be decisive.”

Further breaking news from Győr is that this summer 31-year-old left-back Aurelia Bradeanu will leave the club after 7 successful years.

Dinamo Volgograd (RUS) vs. HC Leipzig (GER)
Saturday 19 February 2011, 14:00 hrs (local time)

Being without any points after two rounds, the situation is clear: the winner will have some chance to go on to the semi-final, whilst the loser’s chances will be decreased to a minimum.

Dinamo coach Victor Ryabykh recently complained about the busy schedule for his team, as Volgograd are facing tough opponents twice a week and with all the travelling, it’s almost impossible to prepare and concentrate on their actual opponent.

Besides this, during the last few weeks, Dinamo have faced massive injury problems that have had a devastating effect on the team’s play in the first two rounds of the current phase of the major club tournament.

The Russians have lost both of their games so far, and whilst they’re still leading the national championship, a semi-final place seems to be far away in the EHF CL: “It’s clear that Győr and Larvik are the favourites. Our main target now is to win the Russian championship and secure a direct spot to next year’s CL campaign,” said coach Ryabykh.

Nevertheless, with the return of missing key players Olga Levina and Anna Sedoykina, the Russians will have a good chance to collect their first points in the Main Round.

On the other hand, Germany’s Leipzig aim for success as well, as Karolina Kudlacz and her team-mates delivered two brilliant games, but their efforts did not reap rewards: “To collect points in the Main Round, all of us have to perform at the maximum and we have to act as a team,” said Ania Rösler.

“We must perform well in both defence and attack, and what’s more important is to score with great efficiency from clear-cut situations,” added Leipzig’s middle back.

Despite the two losses, in Rösler’s opinion, the German objectives won’t change: “We want to produce attractive handball and be tough opponents in our matches. Obviously our aim is to collect points and this year I think we can still cause some surprises.”

“We have developed our game plan in a positive manner and we play cleverly in decisive phases of the games,” added the 28-years old.

Rösler believes there is no clear favourite for Saturday’s match: “It’s very hard to predict the outcome as all will depend on the club’s form on the match day. The team that makes fewer mistakes and has the better defence, will leave the court as winners.”

The EHF Women's Champions League game of Main Round Group 3, Dinamo Volgograd (RUS) vs. HC Leipzig (GER) on Saturday 19 February 2011 at 14:00 hrs (local time) will be broadcast live on our free-of-charge web stream on

TEXT: Márk Hegedüs