Two teams need a miracleArticle
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Preview of the second leg matches of the VELUX EHF Champions League Quarterfinals.

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Two teams need a miracle

In two quarterfinal duels the wheat seems to have been separated from the chuff, while two matches are still open. That is the situation before the very last four games before the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne.

Renovalia Ciudad Real and HSV Hamburg both start with a 14-goal advantage into their second leg matches, Barcelona and Montpellier both have the small advantage of two goals.

Between the two legs Ciudad Real won the Spanish "clasico" against Barcelona 30:27 on Tuesday.

The four teams participating at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 on 28-29 May will already meet in Cologne next Monday when the semi-final fixtures will be drawn in the Cologne Tower.

Chekhovskie Medvedi (RUS) vs. HSV Hamburg (GER)
Saturday 30 April 2011, 17:30 hrs (local time)
First leg: HSV Hamburg vs. Chekhovskie Medvedi 38:24 (20:15)

How will the Russians cope with the clear defeat? Chekhovskie was absolutely disappointed when leaving Hamburg – but now they have hope for a huge miracle.

"The most important thing would be to reduce the number of our mistakes, if we want to keep the chance for one or two points alive," Chekhovskie’s assistant coach Wladimir Kusnir pointed out.

"We have to concentrate on ourselves, as we alone were the reason for the defeat," back court player Siarhei Harbok mentioned.

HSV Hamburg are aware of their opponent’s strength despite the clear advantage: "We are in a good position, but we need to concentrate for another 60 minutes. Nobody should believe that we have already reached Cologne," HSV coach Martin Schwalb warned his players.

His team will be able to count on German international Michael Kraus again. HSV’s previous match memories from Chekhov are positive, as the Germans won both previous matches in Russia.

Montpellier Agglomeration (FRA) vs. Rhein Neckar Löwen (GER)
Saturday 20 April 2011, 17:00 hrs (local time)
First leg: Rhein-Neckar Löwen vs. Montpellier Agglomeration 27:29 (12:9)

Are two goals enough for the VELUX EHF FINAL4? Montpellier’s players are not under the impression to have reached Cologne before the second match is over.

Coach and players all mentioned the close standing and also the strength of the Germans in away matches, all despite having won the first leg in Mannheim. "No congratulations," coach Patrice Canyer said – especially as still four of his players are injured and he does not know until right before the match on how many line players he will be able to count on.

"We know that it will be hard in Montpellier, but we still have a good chance, as two goals are not that much," Löwen top scorer Uwe Gensheimer (in total 98 goals) said and continued: "We need to speed up and stop the French counter attacks, but there defence is hard to beat."

Canayer hopes for a "magical match". So far his team has only lost one international match in their new arena, which was the opener against Hamburg.

Löwen won in Barcelona, tied (CL) and won (Bundesliga) in Kiel. "In the return match in Montpellier we will not play as bad as we did in the first match," coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson hopes.

Renovalia Ciudad Real (ESP) vs. SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER)
Sunday 01 May 2011, 17:00 hrs (local time)
First leg: SG Flensburg-Handewitt vs. Renovalia Ciudad Real 24:38 (8:19)

The statistics is clearly on the side of Renovalia Ciudad Real: Since 04 May 2008 (27:29 in the final against THW Kiel) the Spanish champions did not lose a single home match in the VELUX EHF Champions League.

The last but one home defeat occurred in the semi finals of the 2003/2004 season (32:33 against Celje). The third (and first ever) was in 1999 – against Flensburg in the City-Cup Final (21:26).

So the biggest margin in a home defeat ever was five goals – and Flensburg would need 15 goals on Sunday. "Impossible!" and "No chance!" are the phrases that can be heard from the Germans before their trip to Ciudad Real.

Even as Flensburg were the only team to beat the Spanish champions in this current season, the Germans are pessimistic after the disaster on home ground. Flensburg will have to replace right wing Lasse Svan Hansen due to an injury.

Compared to the game against Ciudad Real they performed in a completely different manner in the league game against Gummersbach on Sunday (29:25).

Also the La Mancha team gained confidence on Tuesday evening, when they beat FC Barcelona in the "clasico" of the Spanish Asobal league 30:27, thanks to a world class performance of goalkeeper Arpad Sterbik.

In the league they have been unbeaten on home ground for more than six and a half years.

THW Kiel (GER) vs. FC Barcelona-Borges (ESP)
Sunday, 01 May 2011, 18:30 hrs. (local time)
First leg: F.C. Barcelona Borges vs. THW Kiel 25:27 (14:15)

As THW Kiel had the possibility to rest between the first and the second leg, Barcelona had to struggle hard in the Spanish „clasico" against Renovalia Ciudad Real – and lost their first league match after 26 straight victories.

Due to the 27:30 defeat they missed an early decision for their in total 18th Spanish championship and the first since 2006. But having four points advantage ahead of Renovalia Ciudad Real three rounds before the end, the title race is still close.

Different is the situation for their Quarterfinal opponents, where THW are five points behind Hamburg in the German league.

Both sides predict an open end for this rematch of last season’s VELUX EHF Champions league’s final. And both point out that again the goalkeepers – Omeyer and Saric – will play a highly important role in this top match of the VELUX EHF Champions League Quarterfinals.

Barcelona did not lose their last two matches in the Sparkassen Arena, as they won in 2009 and tied in October 2010. "Still the chances are 50:50," Barca coach Xavi Pascual said.

THW coach Alfred Gislason hopes for "a lot of noise in our arena. We need the spectators to go on to Cologne."

As in every match the arena is sold out with 10,250 spectators. "We gave a big chance out of our hands when we led 15:11," Gislason had hoped for a better base.

"The schedule with the matches Kiel, Ciudad Real, Kiel including travelling is very tough for us," Pascual mentioned, but back court player Siarhei Rutenka (top scorer of the match in Renovalia Ciudad Real) added: "We are all professional handball players. It is our job, and we like our job, especially when you have the chance to reach all your objectives within one week."

TEXT: Björn Pazen