Preview of the EHF Champions League Round 4Article
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Four teams can seal their Main Round tickets over the weekend

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Preview of the EHF Champions League Round 4

The fascinating battle for eight Main Round berths continues with the reverse fixtures from last weekend. Women´s EHF Champions League favourites Oltchim Râmnicu Vâlcea and Györi Audi ETO have a great chance to virtually seal their passage, as do FTC Rail Cargo Hungaria.

The likes of Larvik, Podravka Vegeta and Hypo can move one step closer to the last eight, while a three-way dogfight has unravels in Group D, where holders Budućnost Podgorica, Thüringer HC and Zvezda Zvenigorod are locked on four points each.

Group A:
Hypo NÖ (AUT) vs Buxtehuder SV (GER)

Saturday, 20:25 hrs local time in Maria Enzersdorf

Having romped to an emphatic 28:20 away win over the German side last weekend, Hypo will expect to achieve nothing less in front of their home fans, in a bid to reach the Main Round.

A win would probably put the Austrian giants in a commanding position to do so, with six points from four games, as Randers are unlikely to spring a surprise at Oltchim.

Buxtehude, on the other hand, are chasing their first points in this season’s Group Matches, a task which has so far proved to be a tall order for the Bundesliga runners-up.

Oltchim Rm. Vâlcea (ROU) vs HK Randers (DEN)
Sunday, 19:30 hrs local time in Randers

The Romanian champions have romped through the first half of the Group Matches and it is highly improbable that they will show any signs of slowing down after beating Randers so convincingly in Denmark.

Now that a Main Round berth is firmly within their grasp, Oltchim are likely to put their foot on the gas pedal and delight the home fans with another entertaining performance from their start-studded outfit.

With Katarina Bulatović, Cristina Neagu and outstanding goalkeeper Paula Ungureanu in their ranks, Oltchim should have little trouble in repeating last weekend’s performance.

Randers face the uphill task of snatching an unlikely win to stay in the hunt for the runners-up spot in the group, as finishing third ahead of Buxtehude looks a better bet for the Danish side at the moment.

Group B
HC Podravka Vegeta (CRO) vs U Jolidon Cluj (ROU)

Sunday, 17:00 local time in Koprivnica

Podravka eked out an important win at Cluj with a solid defensive display but their overall performance was far from convincing and Neven Hrupec’s team knows they can afford no slip-ups, with a difficult away game at Krim and a home blockbuster against Györi Audi ETO coming up.

Serbian left back Sanja Damjanović has so far led Podravka’s effort with 22 goals in three games, making her the second-highest top scorer in the competition. Her shooting prowess was complemented by the outstanding work of goalkeeper Marta Žderić, who pulled off a string of superb saves in the jittery win over Cluj Napoca.

The whole team played excellent defence and their effort made it that much easier for me to perform well,” Žderić said after Podravka came out on top 20:19 in front of a raucous Romanian crowd.

The roles will be reversed this time as the Croatian champions will have noisy and passionate home supporters behind them, hence they will head into the match as favourites against the Champions League debutants.

Györi Audi ETO (HUN) vs Krim Mercator (SLO)
Saturday, 15:45 local time in Györ

Twice the finalists in the continent’s premier club competition and another four times in the EHF Cup and the Cup Winners´ Cup, Györi Audi ETO are determined to put heartbreaking defeats behind them and grasp the European silverware that keeps eluding them.

They are on the right track and the 31:20 demolition of Krim in Ljubljana showed that in no uncertain terms, as Anita Görbicz turned on the heat with eight goals and the rest of the crew followed with a devastating all-round performance.

But although the Hungarian champions have so far toyed with the opposition in their group, past failures have taught them to take nothing for granted and there is no doubt they will head into the rematch with Krim at full throttle, hoping to clinch a Main Round berth with two games to spare.

Group C
Larvik HK (NOR) vs Dinamo Volgorgrad (RUS)

Saturday, 17:45 hrs local time in Larvik

The drubbing of Dinamo in Russia showed that Larvik’s defeat at Ferencváros in the previous round was only a bad day, even though the strength of double Cup Winners´ Cup conquerors in the past two seasons is not to be underestimated.

The return of inspirational playmaker Gro Hammerseng has certainly given Larvik more options and her timely return into the ranks of the 2011 EHF Champions League winners has rekindled hopes that the Norwegian giants can recapture the trophy from Budućnost.

To do that they first have to reach the Main Round and the home game against Dinamo is an ideal opportunity to make another big step in that direction.

Apart from Hammerseng making an impact, Larvik will also be buoyed by the clinical finishing of Anja Edin, while they will want to take a look at their occasionally slack defending and put some mortar between the bricks at the back.

Their right wing, Kristina Bille, however, was optimistic that Larvik had it in them to win the group. “Our first objective is to get into the Main Round but have not given up on winning the group yet because anything can happen. It is crucial to win our home games, not least after we lost away to FTC Budapest,” she told

Sävehof IK (SWE) vs FTC Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN)
Sunday, 15:00 hrs local time in Partille

The designated cat versus mouse game when these two met in Dabas turned into a rip-roaring contest as Sävehof stunned Ferencváros in the first half and only an industrious effort in the last 10 minutes spared FTC an embarrassing home defeat.

The Swedish team are yet to taste any kind of success in an extremely tough group, but last weekend’s spirited challenge will give them hope that they can come away with something against their Hungarian opponents on home court.

Wary of the test to their credentials test presented by Sävehof, Ferencváros will look to break down their opponents early this time round and put the return game beyond doubt as soon as they can, with a win almost certainly guaranteeing a spot in the last eight.

Sävehof prodigy Jamina Roberts told just what playing against Europe’s best clubs meant to her and the team. “We learn a lot and get a lot of experience which comes in useful for us in the Swedish league. We can really feel the benefit of tough Champions League matches so in that perspective, games in Europe’s top competition are of great value for us,” she said.


Group D
Budućnost Podgorica (MNE) vs Thüringer HC (GER)

Sunday, 19:00 hrs local time in Podgorica

The reigning champions went to Germany with their tails up after two impressive wins over Zvezda and Viborg, but came crashing down against a fired-up Thüringer HC who romped into a 7:2 lead and closed shop in the last five minutes when Budućnost pulled back to 21:20.

The youthful new-look team from the Montenegrin capital sent shockwaves through the competition in the opening two rounds, playing above their supposed limits to crush Zvezda and then three-times European club champions Viborg.

While coach Dragan Adžić refused to get carried away after the perfect start, he also kept his composure following the defeat that put his team’s feet back on the ground. „We knew this would be the most difficult away game because Thüringer plays with great energy and desire,” Adžić said after seeing his team lose 24:20 in Germany.

„This is a rewarding experience for our young team and I am sure that we will work hard to correct the mistakes we made in order to prepare for a new clash with them,“ he added.

The holders will sweat on the fitness of their majestic German goalkeeper Clara Woltering, who injured her ankle and hand in the first game with the latter problem looking more serious.

Having picked up only one point in six Group Matches last season, the German champions will now be thrilled with the prospect of advancing into the Main Round – which must have looked like a far-fetched dream before the campaign started.

Their Slovakian sharpshooter Lýdia Jakubisová, who rifled in seven goals against Budućnost, told how much her team savoured playing in the Champions League.

“It is something very special for us and we enjoy every minute on the court facing those top teams. After five defeats and just one draw last season, we wanted to at least win our home matches this season. We will take it one game at a time from here on – we know that we are the underdogs again in Podgorica because the Montenegrins are handball-crazy and they will create a special atmosphere,” she said.

Zvezda Zvenigorod (RUS) vs Viborg HK (DEN)
Sunday, 18:30 hrs local time in Chekhov

The fact that this is a make-or-break game for both teams should produce a cracking fixture, similar to the clash in Denmark when the Russian outfit came out on top by the odd goal in a see-saw contest.

While Zvezda are battling to stay in contention for a top-two finish and a berth in the Main Round, the only thing on Viborg’s mind will be clutching to the last straw of salvation from an early exit in Europe.

Even a win may not be enough to save the holders of three EHF Champions League titles, as they have zero points from their opening three games while all the other teams in the group have four each.

With Norwegian line player Marit Mjalm Frafjord still out with a shoulder injury, Viborg will have to close ranks in defence and attack in order to scrape what would be a valuable win against a solid Zvezda team.

The Russian side will rely on the scoring ability of their Macedonian back Julija Nikolić, who netted eight goals in the first game to lead her team to what might turn out to be a priceless away victory.

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević / br