13 clubs fight for eight ticketsArticle
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VELUX EHF Champions League: The situation in the four groups before the re-start.

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13 clubs fight for eight tickets

With 84 of 120 matches in the Group Phase having been played, the final 36 games (which begins Thursday, 9 February 2012) will decide which teams qualify for the Last 16 of the VELUX EHF Champions League.

Eight teams have already made their way to the knockout stages, while another 13 are still hoping to make it to the Last 16.

After seven rounds only FC Barcelona Intersport (current leader in group A) and HSV Hamburg (leader in group C) have a clear sheet with seven victories. And Atletico Madrid (the leader in group B) are still unbeaten with five victories and two draws.

RK Bosna Gas Sarajevo, Partizan Beograd and Bjerringbro Silkeborg (despite four newly crowned EHF EURO champions) still have no points on their account – and they are the only teams already out of the race for the knockout stage.

FC Barcelona Intersport, defending champions of the VELUX EHF Champions League, lead in another ranking, too: With 238 goals to their credit they are the most successful attacking side, ahead of Atletico Madrid (228) and the trio of THW Kiel, HSV Hamburg and MAHB Montpelier with each 222 goals.

The strongest defence might be a surprise to some, but after seeing Serbia at the EHF EURO on home ground – and especially their “minister of defence” Darko Stanic in goal -  it is no wonder that Macedonian champions Metalurg Skopje have conceded only 164 goals. They have the best defence ahead of Barcelona, RK Zagreb and Hamburg with each 170 conceded goals.

ehfCL.com gives an overview of the situation in the four groups before the re-start after the EHF EURO break.

Group A:

FC Barcelona Intersport (14 points) and RK Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb (12) have already qualified for the Last 16. The group winner will be decided in Round 9, when the defending champions host the Croats in a kind of re-match of the EHF EURO Bronze final, when 11 of those players were on the court in Belgrade – with Croatia coming out on top. As the Catalans won in Zagreb 31:30, they will be the favourites.

Below this duo Chambery Savoie, IK Sävehof (6 points each) and Kadetten Schaffhausen (4) fight for the remaining two places in the knockout stage. If the French and Swedish champions are level on points at the end of the group stage, Chambery will go through as they won the clash between those two sides. All three teams will face Bosna, but the Alpine clash of Kadetten vs. Chambery in Round 9 could prove the decisive one for final placings. If Kadetten and Sävehof are equal on points, the Swiss champions are the lucky winner due to a better goal difference from the two matches between those sides.

Group B:

The toughest group of all: Atletico Madrid is already through to the Last 16 with 12 points, but MKB Veszprem are just two points behind and if they win their next match against Vive Targi Kielce they will also reach the next stage. Veszprem still have the chance to top the group, but they need a clear victory in their final encounter with Madrid after losing the first match 28:37.

Below this leading duo Chekhovskie Medvedi, Füchse Berlin (7 points each) and Kielce (6) can hope for the knockout stage. The winner of the Füchse vs. Medvedi clash in Round 8 will make a huge step – and the Russians have a tough program ahead with upcoming matches against Veszprem and Kielce. The Polish winner of the Wild Card Tournament can still reach the Last 16, but need other results to go in their favour.

Group C:

HSV Hamburg have the clearest lead of all in their respective groups: After seven victories the German champions are already five points ahead of Metalurg Skopje and RK Cimos Koper, who have already qualified for the knockout stage, too. By winning at St Petersburg on Sunday, HSV can secure top spot in the group.

Metalurg and Koper will fight for second spot – and the better base for the Last 16 draw – in a mouth-watering clash between the two on Saturday. Further down the table, Below Wisla Plock have the best chance to proceed with five points – two ahead of St Petersburg and three ahead of HCM Constanta. If the Poles win in Romania and St Petersburg lose against Hamburg in Round 8, Plock will nearly be through to the Last 16, needing only one point from two matches, including the final direct duel in Russia.

Group D:

THW Kiel (11 points) and AG Kobenhavn (10) have already qualified for the next stage, but nothing else is decided yet - except that Partizan Beograd is out of the race.

As the Germans are one point ahead of the Danes, the final clash in Bröndby will be decisive for the group victory. But Ademar Leon (9 points) and MAHB Montpellier (8) still have chance to overtake one or both – and those teams face each other in the direct duel on Sunday.

Pick Szeged need a minor miracle to reach the knockout stage, as the Hungarians are below fourth-ranked team Montpelier with four points. If Szeged lose at Kiel on Thursday, the four teams to go on will be decided, as then the Hungarians cannot finish better than fifth.


TEXT: Björn Pazen