Prepare for the knockout stages!Article
«Go back

VELUX EHF Champions League: This week sees nine matches in the Last 16

»EHF CL Channel »2011-12 Men's News

Prepare for the knockout stages!

This week sees nine matches take place in the Last 16 of the VELUX EHF Champions League, with Wisla Plock and THW Kiel playing both home and away legs. The thrilling knockout stage of Europe's top-flight competition will establish the eight teams for the quarter finals, the last step before the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne (26/27 May).

16 teams from eleven nations – more than have ever been represented since the playing system changed in 2009 – fight for those eight tickets in 16 matches, including three clubs from Germany and Spain and two Polish squads.

The re-matches of all games - excluding the Plock vs. Kiel encounter - will take place on March 24/25, while the draw for the quarter finals is scheduled for March 27.

All times local.

Orlen Wisla Plock (POL) vs. THW Kiel (GER)
First leg: Wednesday 14 March, 20:00 hrs
Second leg: Sunday 18 March, 17:30 hrs

In only five days the first participant in the quarter finals of the VELUX EHF Champions League will be known: On Wednesday Plock and Kiel face each other in Poland, and on Sunday the second leg will take place in Germany. As the arena in Kiel was occupied for the original date, both clubs and the EHF agreed to move the date of the second leg.

Kiel and Plock met twice in pre-season, with THW winning both friendly matches (31:29 in Plock and 26:11 in Kiel). Whilst THW secured top spot in their Group, Plock finished fourth. And while THW has been a constant part of the knockout stage of the VELUX EHF Champions League, the Poles have been among the last 16 teams (in a different playing system) just once in 1996. In the EHF Champions League both clubs have met only once - in the Group Stage of the season 2005/2006, when Plock won 32:31 at home, but then lost clearly 22:37 at THW.

So the roles should be clearly settled, even as THW coach Alfred Gislason is aware of the electric atmosphere in the already sold-out arena in Plock.

In their national leagues Polish champions Plock are eight points below current leader Vive Targi Kielce, but could still challenge for the title as in Poland play-offs decide the championship. Meanwhile THW is full of confidence as they have lost just one of their last 41 matches – the CL game against Montpellier. In the Bundesliga they have reached a new record by winning 22 straight matches and are already eight points ahead of second-placed Füchse Berlin.

Watch the match LIVE at

Kadetten Schaffhausen (SUI) vs. Atletico Madrid (ESP)
Thursday 15 March, 19:30 hrs

After facing Barcelona in the Group Phase, Kadetten now have the chance to compete with a second world class team from the Spanish Asobal Liga. And the Swiss champions know how to surprise favoured teams in the Last 16, as last season they beat Montpellier by a five-goal margin on home ground, but were then eliminated in France.

Kadetten were ranked fourth after the Group Stage, whilst Atletico won the "group of death". Both teams have injury problems, as Christian Dissinger has been out since the start of the season with a ruptured crucial ligament for Kadetten, and Madrid miss goalkeeper Arpad Sterbik with a knee injury.

"Kadetten have improved enormously since we faced them the last time," Madrid manager Luis Miguel Lopez said, refering to their one previous encounter. In the Group Stage of the 2006/2007 season Schaffhausen had not been able to catch-up with the Spaniards, losing both games clearly (30:37 at home, 31:39 in Ciudad Real).

And Madrid will take a lot of confidence after clearly beating their old rivals FC Barcelona Intersport in the final of the Spanish king’s cup 37:31 last weekend.

Reale Ademar Leon (ESP) vs. MKB Veszprem (HUN)
Saturday 17 March, 17:00 hrs

Which set of fans can push their team to the limit? Everyone agrees that the atmosphere in both arenas will a decisive factor in this open encounter. Leon and Veszprem can count on a large and loud crowd for their home matches.

Leon finished third at the end of the Group Stage, whilst Veszprem secured second place on the final match day thanks to a home victory against Madrid. Leon is suffering from several injury problems, while the Hungarians are virtually injury free.

The Spaniards were much stronger on home ground than away so they will need a big gap to reach the quarter finals for the fourth time in their history. After beating Montpellier and Kobenhavn and taking a last-second draw against Kiel, Leon is the favourite on home ground. Veszprem missed their traditional home strength a bit in the Group Stage, as they lost against Berlin and Kielce in their arena.

In the history of the EHF Champions League they have played each other twice before – and Veszprem won all four matches. In the quarter finals of the 2001/2002 season the Hungarians won in Leon by 27:22 and won 30:18 at home, while in the Main Round of the 2008/2009 season the results were closer: 32:30 at Leon and 28:26 in Veszprem.

Watch the match LIVE at

Füchse Berlin (GER) vs. HSV Hamburg (GER)
Sunday 18 March, 16:00 hrs

This is the only clash of two teams from the same country in the Last 16 – and despite the fact that Füchse ranked fourth in their Group and HSV won their Group clearly, there is no real favourite in this encounter. In the Bundesliga, Berlin won their home match 26:25, but then lost at Hamburg 23:24.

The situation at both sides is not perfect: Füchse Icelandic playmaker Alexander Petterson is still suffering from shoulder problems, while Hamburg will miss Swedish right back Oscar Carlen with a long-term injury. And both club's form in the Bundesliga is also different: Defending champions HSV rank only fourth after suffering a clear defeat in Flensburg on Saturday, and they are already 11 points behind leader Kiel. Füchse rank second, and are eight points below THW.

Füchse have qualified for the VELUX EHF Champions League for the first time, while HSV participate for the fifth time, reaching the quarter finals every time they played and qualified for the Semi Finals three times.

Montpellier Agglomeration HB (FRA) vs. FC Barcelona Intersport (ESP)
Sunday 18 March, 17:00 hrs

This match is a clash of the titans, with both clubs currently leading the table in their domestic top leagues with a clear sheet.

"It is a pity that one of those clubs will be eliminated so early," was the statement of THW Kiel’s club director Sabine Holdorf-Schust after the Last 16 draw at the VELUX headquarters in Hörsholm.

Barcelona only lost one match in the Group Stage (at home against Zagreb) and won their Group, whilst Montpellier surprisingly only won five matches and ranked fourth in the end of the Group Stage.

And as their usual Park&Suites Arena in Perols is occupied by the "Cirque de Soleil", MAHB have to change the venue and go back to their former Rene Bougnol Hall – an arena with tradition, as the French champions took their one and only EHF Champions League title there.

In the history of the Champions League, the Rene Bougnol Hall is a good place for MAHB: The last time both teams had met in EHF Champions League matches was in the Last 16 of the 2006/2007 season, when Montpellier won the first leg at Rene Bougnol 28:25, but then were eliminated by the Catalans due to a 29:23 victory at Palau Blaugrana. Surprisingly – as both teams have been constant parts of this competition for more than a decade – there was only one encounter before, in the Group matches of the 2000/2001 season, when Montpellier tied at home 25:25 after losing at Barcelona 17:24. So this current Last 16 matches will be the third clash, and Montpellier have never lost a match against Barcelona at home – but never won at the Catalans, too.

And the last results of both teams were different, too: As Montpellier stepped easily into the semi-final of the French Cup, Barcelona lost the reached the final of the Spanish "king’s cup" against Madrid.

Vive Targi Kielce (POL) – RK Cimos Koper (SLO)
Sunday 18 March, 20:30 hrs

A premiere in the VELUX EHF Champions League: Never before have Vive Targi Kielce and Cimos Koper met in an international encounter – and both sides declare the Last 16 matches as equal. Kielce ranked third below Madrid and Veszprem in their Group, whilst Koper took the second place below Hamburg and ahead of their Balkan rival Metalurg after the Group Stage.

The Slovenian champions already reached their major objective, as they are part of the knockout stage of the EHF Champions League for the first time in history. The Polish runners-up was part of the Last 16 two years ago when they were eliminated by HSV Hamburg. So for both teams qualifying for the quarter finals would be a milestone in the club’s history.

Those games will be very special for Slovenian Uros Zorman, playing for Kielce for a second season.

Kielce are the clear leaders of the Polish League after surprisingly losing last season’s finals against Wisla Plock, whilst Koper are currently ranked third in the Slovenian League, being ten points below leader Gorenje Velenje.

Koper sprang a surprise when they took the only point from HSV Hamburg in the Group Stage, and can count on the experience of Milorad Krivokapic. Kielce have improved since the start and took the fortress Veszprem in the Group Stage. But both teams will rely on their strength in home matches.

Watch the match LIVE at

RK Metalurg Skopje (MKD) vs. RK Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb (CRO)
Sunday 18 March, 17:00 hrs

The Macedonians hope for the next big surprise: Whilst RK Zagreb are among the 16 best teams of the VELUX EHF Champions League for the 13th time, Metalurg is the first ever Macedonian club to qualify for the knockout stage of Europe’s leading club competition in handball.

After the qualification tournament Metalurg took third spot in their Group below Hamburg and Koper, while Zagreb finished as runners-up to defending champions FC Barcelona after winning at Palau Blaugrauna.

The match is something very special for mastermind Lino Cervar on the Metalurg bench, as he had been coach of Zagreb (and the Croatian national team) for a long time and has become a legend in his home country after leading Croatia to Gold at the Olympics 2004 and the World Championship 2003.

And in Skopje the hopes are high: In the Regional SEHA League Metalurg drew 19:19 against Zagreb, but in the re-match last Sunday in Croatia they lost 25:32 in the "dress rehearsal" for the VELUX EHF Champions League match.

In EHF Champions League history both teams had met only once before, in the Group Matches of the 2006/2007 season when Zagreb won both matches clearly (32:24 and 22:18 at Skopje). But times have changed, not least because of the sensational fifth place the Macedonian team secured at the EHF EURO in Serbia (with twelve Metalurg players in the squad). On Home ground Metalurg will be pushed by a large number of spectators.

Watch the match LIVE at

IK Sävehof (SWE) vs. AG Kobenhavn (DEN)
Sunday 18 March, 16:30 hrs

The distance is short, and the wish of the Danes came true – as they wanted to have this All-Scandinavian duel in the Last 16. Never before have both teams faced each other in an international match – which is no surprise, as it is the first time ever AGK have qualified for a European Cup competition.

Sävehof were the biggest surprise in the Group Stage as they eliminated French runners-up Chambery and left Kadetten Schafhausen behind. For the Swedish champions – who had to march through the Qualification Tournament before – it is the second time after 2004/2005 they have reached the Last 16, although last time under a different playing system.

Kobenhavn went close to winning their Group, but due to a thrilling draw in their last Group Stage match against THW Kiel they finished second. The Danes have a very experienced squad with players like four times EHF Champions League winner Olafur Stefansson or newly crowned World Handball Player of the Year Mikkel Hansen. But they will miss 50 per cent of their world class goalkeeper duo, as Norwegian Steinar Ege is out for the rest of the season with a ruptured Achilles.

Sävehof, with their young squad made up largely of Swedish natives, have become extremely strong on home ground and only lost against Barcelona in the Group Stage, even beating Zagreb in Gothenburg. Kobenhavn only lost two away matches (in Kiel and Szeged), but took the lion’s den at Montpellier. The Danes are will start as favourites in this encounter.

TEXT: Björn Pazen