Semi-final spots at stakeArticle
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We preview the fourth round of the EHF Women´s Champions League Main Round, which takes place this weekend.

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Semi-final spots at stake

At the halfway stage of the EHF Champions League Main Round two clubs, Győri Audi ETO and Budućnost, are the only teams with maximum points in the competition. With results in their favour, both teams could claim a semi-final berth after four rounds. has live coverage of the matches RK Krim Mercator (SLO) vs. Budućnost (MNE) on Friday, and Grupo Asfi Itxako Navarra (ESP) vs. Larvik (NOR) on Saturday, but regional restrictions apply.

For regional TV listings of all the EHF Women's Champions League matches click HERE.


FC Midtjylland (DEN) vs. Győri Audi ETO (HUN)
Friday 24 February, 18:30 hrs (local time)

With last weekend´s strong victory the Danes still have chances for the semi-final, whilst Győri Audi ETO, with an away win, could make it to the Top 4 after four rounds of the Main Round.

For the Hungarian champions it would be the sixth consecutive time since 2006/2007 that they’ve appeared in the semi-final and their chances look great.

The possibility to advance to the Top 4 with two points against FCM will certainly be a further boost to the motivation of Anita Görbicz and her team-mates.

Győri Audi ETO have won all three games in the Main Round so far, and will be determined to remain in the ascendancy when their fourth round assignment takes them to Denmark to face FC Midtjylland.

Nevertheless, the Hungarians should not underestimate Trine Troelsen and her colleagues, as the Danes have shown in the first leg tie that they are a classy team with a fast attacking game plan. 

"They were on level terms with us for a long time, and despite being down by several goals, they managed to come back," said Hungarian coach Karl Erik Bøhn in a recent interview.

We have to admit though that FCM have stumbled in their first two Main Round matches and were unable to perform consistently for the whole 60 minutes. However, after a close victory over last year´s semi-finalist Itxako, the Danes must focus on tomorrow's task, and get back to playing the sort of confident, fluid handball they displayed against the Spaniards. 

"We will welcome a team on Friday that has everything for top handball. Spectators in the Ikast-Brande Arena will hopefully witness a handball experience of absolute world-class," says Hans Peter Riis, FCM´s sports director.

After last weekend´s home victory against Itxako and with possible chances for a semi-final spot, the excitement for the EHF Champions League in Ikast and its surroundings has intensified. 

Riis confims this: "The participation among the Top8 means a lot for the club and the whole region and this is also a great success for Danish handball. It´s great that we are still in the race for the semi-final." 

FCM are certainly going through a good phase and the Danes will try to capitalize on this. Coach Ryan Zinglersen expects "a very difficult match − it will be a big and intense clash." His side is preparing for the match "with confidence, and needs to be motivated to play big games. Tomorrow will be a great occasion."

Grupo Asfi Itxako Navarra (ESP) vs. Larvik (NOR)
Saturday 25 February, 19:00 hrs (local time)

Live on (regional restrictions apply)

Neither of the teams will go into the tie as favourites. For Itxako it´ll be an all or nothing game in the race for a semi-final place, whilst the Norwegian title holder aims to iron out their failure of last weekend against EHF Champions League title contender Győri Audi ETO.

This massive defeat came as an equally big blow to coach Ole Gustav Gjekstad´s side who showed great disappointment after the match, where his side conceded nine counter attack goals. Meanwhile, Larvik scored none: "We were punished for every single mistake we made, and gave even more confidence to our opponents."

"We knew that the Hungarians would play speedy handball, yet we were unable to cover their return runs. I simply have no explanation why we appeared so weak," continued Gjekstad.

In Saturday´s duel his side will need a great improvement as the Spaniards will be 'on fire' after their close loss in Denmark. The head coach expects a difficult away match in Estella, and one that will be vital for the outcome of the final rankings: 

"We just have to forget the match against Győr and look forward. Our fate is still in our hands and we will travel to Spain with the goal of winning." 

In a warm-up match during the midweek, Larvik defeated Tertnes in the domestic league by a six-goal margin and this game was a nice relief for the Norwegians after their poor match in Hungary. 

On the other hand, Itxako will count on fan support in this crucial match: the spectators will create the best possible environment for helping coach Ambros Martín´s team to overcome the Norwegians.

Everything would have looked brighter if the Spaniards had defeated FCM last weekend, but Andrea Barnó and her team-mates suffered much while trying to score, and the opponents´ defence stood rock-solid. 

So against Larvik, victory is the only result that comes to the mind of the players now, as a defeat would end their European cup dreams for this season. 


RK Krim Mercator (SLO) vs. Budućnost (MNE)
Friday 24 February, 18:30 hrs (local time)

Live on (regional restrictions apply)

The Montenegrin champions are full of confidence after their dream victory last weekend over Oltchim, whilst Krim returned home with two vital points from Metz and aim for a home victory to remain in the race for a semi-final berth.

Last weekend Krim started on maximum revs from the earliest phase onwards, and with such a high pace, their opponents from France just couldn´t cope. 

The Slovenian victory had been cemented in the first period, but despite a six-goal lead in the midway of the second half, the Slovenians´ game plan collapsed somewhat, and the dying minutes brought a thriller, with Krim celebrating a better finish and a happy ending.

"It will be very important for the match´s outcome that we try to stay as close as possible to Budućnost during the game and then use our possibilities in the final minutes," told Krim coach Tone Tiselj.

All players who performed the Main Round are fit and so Krim is ready to welcome the Montenegrin champions. The only player with a slight injury is Austrian international Gorica Ačimović who has some problems with her back, but she´ll be ready for Friday´s clash, where entrance will again be free for the spectators.

At the halfway stage of the EHF Champions League Main Round, the Ljubljana-based club feels disappointed with the results so far. The management is thinking long-term, but even so, every point and victory will help the club´s reputation.

"If we want a surprise victory, then we have to perform at a high level without dips in our game plan," added tactician Tiselj. 

Budućnost, on the other hand, marched through Oltchim, humiliating the Romanian champions in their own Sala Traian with a clear 10-goal victory. 

The Montenegrin players really shone in this match. Both Katarina Bulatović and Bojana Popović were superior in the back-court, firing in several sharp goals, whilst goalkeeper Clara Woltering pulled off a string of superb saves, giving a great backing for the massive defence.

The super victory flattered Budućnost a bit, but coach Dragan Adžić´s team wants to push for the Krim match, secure the next victory, and win the group.

Metz Handball (FRA) vs.  C.S. Oltchim Rm. Vâlcea (ROU)
Sunday 26 February, 17:30 hrs (local time)

Both clubs lost their matches last weekend, but as Metz are still without points after three rounds, it´s the team of Oltchim that could make a big step towards semi-final qualification. 

The French champions are very strong on their home court, but with several fluctuations in their game plan, Metz were only able to play close duels in their home matches, and then they lost both narrowly. 

Club president Thierry Weizman hopes for at least a point in Metz´s farewell home game against Oltchim: "We feared Budućnost and couldn´t make up a five-goal difference against Krim. In our last home game on Sunday we will play with more self-confidence." 

The Romanian champions were outclassed last weekend in the Sala Traian to the big disappointment of the team and spectators. It was a defeat Oltchim didn't expect. Budućnost are considered a great team, but the Romanian goal was to win, but they didn't get the run of the ball, and lost.

Oltchim´s left-back Adina Meiroşu analyzed: "We’d prepared for this match for a week, and we’d trained seriously. We lost by a big difference, but we will have to recover quickly, as our chances for semi-final qualification are still intact."

For coach Radu Voina, the game against Metz will be a tough one and he warned: "Many think that, with Metz theoretically out in the semi-final race, we will have an easy walkover in France, but it won´t be a walk-in-the-park by any means!"

During the week, line-player Oana Manea was suffering from vertigo. The pivot had nausea and difficulty standing on two legs, but as club president Petre Berbecaru confirmed, "she had a final check-up in Bucharest and has already resumed training. On Sunday she´ll be back in action and we hope to achieve victory there."

TEXT: Márk Hegedüs