Tough fights for the fourth placesArticle
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Preview of all matches from Round 9 of the VELUX EHF Men’s Champions League.

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Tough fights for the fourth places

Only two rounds, that equals 24 matches, are still to be played in the Group Phase of the VELUX EHF Men’s Champions League. Eleven teams have already qualified for the Last 16, and three teams are in a position to also qualify for the next phase in Round 9.

This penultimate round, to be played from Wednesday to Sunday, will see the crucial matches for the fourth places in each group.

Group A

The three teams ranked one to three will meet the clubs on the positions four, and the three top teams all have the home right on their side. The most important match will be Barcelona against Chambery, as this game– combined with the match Kiel against Celje – could decide about all Last 16 participants from Group A prior to the last round.

Rhein Neckar Löwen (GER) vs. KS Vive Targi Kielce (POL)
Sunday 27 February 2011, 17:00 hrs (local time)

After having qualified for the knock-out stage, Löwen are now eager to defend second place, or even reach first place. Against the polish side from Kielce they have the ambition to take revenge for the surprising draw (23:23) in the first encounter.

The game was supposed to be special for Löwen goalkeeper Sławomir Szmal as he was to play against his future club. But on Sunday he will only be found among the fans, as he received knee surgery on Monday and will miss the next four weeks.

Kielce’s right back Mariusz Jurasik will meet his old team as he used to play in Mannheim before transferring back to his home country.

After having lost in Celje last Saturday, the Polish champions are already out of the race for the Last 16. Not only due to that factor, the Rhein Neckar Löwen are in the favourites role, but they are also still unbeaten at home.

The VELUX EHF Men's Champions League game of Group Phase, Round 9, Rhein Neckar Löwen (GER) against KS Vive Targi Kielce (POL) on Sunday 27 February 2011 at 17:00 hrs (local time) will be broadcast live on our free-of-charge web stream on

F.C. Barcelona-Borges (ESP) vs. Chambery Savoie (FRA)
Sunday 27 February 2011, 17:15 hrs (local time)

Another possibility for revenge: The one-goal-loss in Chambery in October was the starting point of Barca’s catch-up chase, since that the Catalans did not lose any more matches and rank third.

For Barcelona, a draw against the French runners-up would be enough for reaching the Last 16, a victory gives them the chance to climb even higher in the ranking.

Chambery need every single point in the fight for the last minute qualification, as they are currently equal in points with their Slovenian opponents from Celje. If they both would remain with the same amount of points in the end, Celje would be ahead du to the better goal difference from the direct encounter.

In Round 10, Chambery will play against Löwen while Celje will meet Barcelona at home.

THW Kiel (GER) vs. HC Celje Pivovarna Lasko (SLO)
Sunday 27 February 2011, 18:45 hrs (local time)

Despite their turbulent club situation, Celje could turn out as the great winners of this weekend. But the Slovenians would need a massive miracle.

If they defeat the current title holders Kiel in Germany and at the same time Chambery lose in Barcelona, the four teams qualified for the Last 16 from Group A would be definitely decided, including Celje on fourth place.

But the mighty THW Kiel not only have more individual class and more international experience than the young guns from Celje, they are also unbeaten at home in this season.

This makes Celje’s task difficult as Kiel are clear favourites, even if they still haven’t replaced the missing back court players Narcisse and Andersson.

By taking two points, Kiel would take another step towards finishing on first place after the group stage, which was the defined objective of the reigning champions.

Group B

Can Veszprém expand their lead or will they stumble in Kolding? After all four participants of the Last 16 are known since last weekend, this seems to be the main question in Group B. Especially Montpellier will hope for a failure of the Hungarians, as they would then have a big chance to win the group in the final Round, when facing Veszprém in their new home hall Arena Montpellier.

KIF Kolding (DEN) vs. MKB Veszprém (HUN)
Saturday 26 February 2011, 16:15 hrs (local time)

The burden has been taken of KIF’s shoulders after qualifying for the knock-out stage. Now the Danes can play with less pressure against the current group leaders.

With a home victory Kolding would secure their third place before Hamburg, who are their last round opponent. This would bring new tension into this group.

In their matches against the top teams KIF has so far showed two faces: They beat Hamburg but lost clearly to Montpellier.

Veszprém are currently one point before Montpellier and won the first encounter against Kolding with a three-goals margin.

If the Hungarians win and Montpellier beat Presov, the Hungarians will still need one point in the last match in France to remain on top.

The VELUX EHF Men's Champions League game of Group Phase, Round 9, KIF Kolding (DEN) against MKB Veszprém (HUN) on Saturday 26 February 2011 at 16:15 hrs (local time) will be broadcast live on our free-of-charge web stream on

IK Sävehof (SWE) vs. HSV Hamburg (GER)
Saturday 26 February 2011, 16:20 hrs (local time)

After missing the Last 16 and having only one victory in the bank, Sävehof is the underdog in this duel.

Hamburg desperately want to climb in the group ranking from their current place four and need those two points.

Only after a victory they will have their fate in their hands when they meet Kolding in Round 10. But more than the third place does not seem to be possible with three points below Montpellier.

Montpellier Agglomeration HB (FRA) vs. Tatran Presov (SVK)
Sunday 27 February 2011, 16:00 hrs (local time)

After five straight victories Montpellier still have their hopes high for the number one spot in this group. To reach that position they need two more victories.

Against Presov – the only team still waiting for their first victory – the French champions are clear favourites on home ground. In the first encounter in Presov they had some problems but took the points thanks to a two-goal victory.

In the last round Montpellier will meet Veszprem – and as there is a risk of a Hungarian victory in Kolding, MAHB will simply have to win both matches to reach first place – including the last one with two or more goals difference.

Group C

Minsk or Aalborg? For one of these teams the dream of the Last 16 will definitely end this weekend after their direct duel. Szeged can secure their qualification for the knock-out stage, but also Schaffhausen want to remain among the four top teams.

Kadetten Schaffhausen (SUI) vs. Chekhovskie Medvedi (RUS)
Wednesday 23 February 2011, 19:30 hrs (local time)

Round 9 of the VELUX EHF Men’s Champions League will start in Winterthur, where Kadetten Schaffhausen host their third home match in a row. After losing to Minsk and defeating Szeged, the Swiss champions will face the group leaders from Russia.

And Chekhovskie Medvedi is the only CL team still unbeaten in away matches. Their only defeat occurred in Chekhov against Szeged, in Valladolid the team of coach Vladimir Maximov tied.

Kadetten need every single point as they are hunted by Minsk. On the other hand Medvedi could already secure the first place in the final group ranking by winning in Switzerland. That would also help Minsk in their catch-up chase.

The VELUX EHF Men's Champions League game of Group Phase, Round 9, Kadetten Schaffhausen (SUI) against Chekhovskie Medvedi (RUS) on Wednesday 23 February 2011 at 19:30 hrs (local time) will be broadcast live on our free-of-charge web stream on

Pick Szeged (HUN) vs. Cuatro Rayas Valladolid (ESP)
Saturday 26 February 2011, 18:00 hrs (local time)

Both teams did not reach their objectives in Round 8 as they lost important points. By losing in Switzerland, Szeged missed the early qualification for the Last 16. Due to the draw with Minsk, Valladolid is struggling to overtake Chekhov as number one.

This encounter is the next chance for the Hungarians to advance to the knock-out stage. To be sure this weekend already, they need to beat Valladolid. In case of a draw they could still be overtaken by Minsk.

Szeged still have good chances, even if lose against Valladolid, they have a last chance in Aalborg in Round 10.

Valladolid does not have the chances for group victory in their own hands. Even if the Spaniards would win both matches (the last one is against Schaffhausen) they would need to hope that Chekhov not collect more than one point in their last two games.

The VELUX EHF Men's Champions League game of Group Phase, Round 9, Pick Szeged (HUN) against Cuatro Rayas Valladolid (ESP) on Saturday 26 February 2011 at 18:00 hrs (local time) will be broadcast live on our free-of-charge web stream on as our featured "Match of the Week", including English commentary of Tom O’Brannagain.

HC Dinamo Minsk (BLR) vs. AaB Håndbold (DEN)
Sunday 27 February 2011, 15:00 hrs (local time)

It is the last chance for Aalborg to keep hope for the Last 16 alive but at the same time the next chance for Minsk to make it to the 16 best teams of the VELUX EHF Men’s Champions League.

After their furious run this year, surprisingly taking three points from the away matches in Winterthur and Valladolid, Minsk is full of confidence to beat AaB.

The Belarusians want to take revenge for the four-goal defeat in the first encounter, which is the AaB’s only victory so far in this season.

With another victory and at the same time a Schaffhausen defeat against Chekhov, the Belarusians would for the first time in this season be ranked fourth. Their most important advantage: They won the direct encounter against Kadetten thanks to goal difference.

On the other hand Aalborg has proved their strength in away matches by drawing in Valladolid. If the Danes win they have fate in their hands in their Round 10 match against Szeged on home ground. But if they lose, they are out of the race.

Group D

Can Bosna Sarajevo win their second straight match and thus overtake St. Petersburg and Constanta right before the last Round? And can Zagreb stand the pressure in the lion’s den of Ciudad Real? Those questions will be answered between Thursday and Sunday in Group D.

St. Petersburg HC (RUS) vs. SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER)
Thursday 24 February 2011, 18:00 hrs (local time)

Tough matches ahead for the Russian runners-up: they desperately need at least two points in their remaining games against Flensburg and in Zagreb to keep the fire for the Last 16 burning.

After losing in Sarajevo they remain equal in points with Constanta but are hunted by Bosna.

Flensburg arrive in Russia full of confidence after having beaten Ciudad Real and thus having secured their spot in the Last 16. With remaining matches in St. Petersburg and against Bosna the Germans also play an important role as opponents in the race for the fourth position.

Although Carlen, Mogensen and Knudsen are still missing Flensburg are favourites, also due to their broad international experience. In the first encounter the team of coach Torgowanow was hit hard by the German blizzard as they lost with a twelve-goal margin.

The VELUX EHF Men's Champions League game of Group Phase, Round 9, St. Petersburg HC (RUS) against SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) on Thursday 24 February 2011 at 18:00 hrs (local time) will be broadcast live on our free-of-charge web stream on

Bosna Sarajevo (BIH) vs. HCM Constanta (ROU)
Saturday 26 February 2011, 19:00 hrs (local time)

From Round 1 on, Bosna has been ranked sixth and last in the group table. But now after their first victory against St. Petersburg, the Bosnians could be the lucky winners if they manage to maintain a small catch-up chase.

By beating Constanta they would overtake the Romanians and in case of a Russian defeat against Flensburg they would leapfrog to fourth place before the crucial last Round.

But with an away victory the Romanians could step ahead of St. Petersburg and eliminate all of Bosna’s hopes.

Constanta won the first encounter on home ground with a one-goal margin, but Sarajevo is eager to take both points now.

In the last round both teams face tough opponents, Bosna play in Flensburg, and Constanta play host to Ciudad Real.

This implies that the outcome of this match might be crucial for the race for fourth place in the group.

Renovalia Ciudad Real (ESP) vs. RK Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb (CRO)
Sunday 27 February 2011, 19:00 hrs (local time)

Since the start of the season, three times EHF Champions League winners Renovalia Ciudad Real have been leading in Group D. But two rounds before the end of the Group Phase this position might be endangered by Zagreb.

After Ciudad Real were defeated in Flensburg for the first time this season last Sunday, the Croatians have high hopes to also take points from the Spaniards. RK want to take their chance after having proved their strength in the first encounter, a draw in the Arena Zagreb.

Currently the Spanish team of coach Dujshebaev is only one point ahead of both Zagreb and Flensburg. If Zagreb finished equal in points with Flensburg, they will be ahead of the Germans as they won the direct encounter with a two goal difference.

But Ciudad Real is willing to show their strength in front of their fans in the Don Quichote Arena, where no team could steal points both in this and in the last season.

Left handed shooter Kiril Lazarow will be in the focus, as he transferred from Zagreb to Ciudad Real this season.

The VELUX EHF Men's Champions League game of Group Phase, Round 9, Renovalia Ciudad Real (ESP) against RK Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb (CRO) on Sunday 27 February 2011 at 19:00 hrs (local time) will be broadcast live on our free-of-charge web stream on

TEXT: Björn Pazen