Preview for Round 5 of the Women's EHF Champions League Main RoundArticle
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The battle for semi-final berths intensifies

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Preview for Round 5 of the Women's EHF Champions League Main Round

The penultimate weekend of the Women’s EHF Champions League Main Round is set to produce four fascinating contests and each of them could be decisive for teams vying to reach the competition’s semi-finals.

With Hungarian title holders Györi Audi ETO KC already securing a berth in the last four, holders Budućnost Podgorica have it all to do when the two teams meet in yet another repeat of last season’s final.

Larvik, the 2011 champions, can also afford no slip-ups in Group 1 when they visit Scandinavian rivals Randers. If Budućnost lose to Györ and the Norwegians win their fixture against Danish opposition, Larvik will also book a semi-final ticket.

The situation is slightly more complicated in Group 2, where a three-way race for two spots has reached boiling point. Krim Mercator and Ferencvaros will both advance if they win their respective home games against Zvezda and Oltchim, whereas a win for the Romanian side in Dabas would leave the race wide open.

Group 1
Budućnost Podgorica (MNE) vs Györi Audi ETO KC (HUN)

Sunday, 19:00 hrs local time in Podgorica

Having suffered a 10-goal drubbing at the hands of the team they beat in the 2012 final on away goals, Budućnost must now reverse that result to keep alive any realistic hopes of reaching the semi-finals.

Defeat to Györ coupled with victory for Larvik at Randers would send the Norwegians through and put an end the Montenegrin side’s campaign this season, in which their youthful and revamped outfit gave as good as they got in most of their games against top level opposition.

Come what may in the last two games, Budućnost will at least be buoyed by the arrival of Camilla Dalby from Randers at the end of the season, with the prolific scorer making the announcement just a few days after she scored six goals against the Women’s EHF Champions League holders in a thrilling 20:20 draw in Denmark.

“I see a great opportunity to develop here and the move gives me a chance to keep playing in the Champions League, while I also like the fact that Budućnost have a young team which can improve a lot in the future,” Dalby told

Györ’s Serbian centre back Andrea Lekić said there will be no resting on their laurels against Budućnost, although the Hungarian side have already secured their passage to the last four with convincing performances and emphatic wins throughout the two group stages.

“As the only team in the competition with a perfect record this season, we are always expected to perform to the best of our abilities and we need to keep the momentum going because one bad day can derail the entire process,” Lekić said on her official website.

“We want to stay at 100% and only after the Main Round is over, will we turn our attention to the semi-finals,” she added.

Group 1
Randers HK (DEN) vs Larvik (NOR)

Saturday, 15:00 hrs local time in Randers

A pair of crushing defeats to Gyor has left Larvik with plenty of work to do if they are to avoid an early exit.

The 2011 winners will be boosted by a rare achievement in the Norwegian league, where they have beaten their own previous record of 76 successive wins with a 33:27 defeat of Oppsal that took the impressive tally to 77 consecutive victories.

Larvik should be too strong for Randers, who will find it difficult to reach the semi-finals, but the Danish side will without doubt play their hearts out to add something to the solitary point they have gained in the Main Round with last weekend’s home draw against Budućnost.

A win would see Larvik through to the last four provided that Budućnost lose at home to Györ, while any other combination of results would mean the last game of the competition’s second group stage, when Larvik are at home to Budućnost, would decide the group’s runners-up.

Group 2:
Krim Mercator (SLO) vs Zvezda Zvenigorod (RUS)

Sunday, 19:30 hrs local time in Ljubljana 

Krim Mercator are on the verge of sealing a semi-final berth and a home win against Zvezda, who have failed to collect any points in the Main Round so far, will either ensure their passage or leave them needing to avoid defeat in their final match at Oltchim.

Although Krim will start as strong favourites to dispatch of their Russian opponents, coach Tone Tiselj and Croatian left back Andrea Penezić told reporters at Thursday’s press conference that the Slovenian giants would take nothing for granted.

“Anyone who thinks this is going to be an easy game is wrong; because there are no easy opponents at this stage of the competition,” Tiselj said.

“We have to avoid resting on our laurels like we did after beating Oltchim and having overpowered Ferencvaros, we now need to take it one step at a time,” he added.

Krim will head into the match with plenty of optimism after last weekend’s superb win over FTC on home court, in which Penezić shone with a game-high eight goals to her name.

“It was a tough match and we knew we had to play aggressive defence to win by five goals, which was the margin we needed,” said Penezić, who is back to her vintage best after a long spell on the side-lines with an ankle injury she sustained at the 2012 Olympics in London. 

Group 2
FTC Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN) vs Oltchim Ramnicu Valcea (ROU) 

Saturday, 16:00 hrs local time in Dabas

Ferencvaros warmed up for their crunch Main Round game against Oltchim with a thrilling 34:34 draw against traditional rivals and reigning champions
Györ in the Hungarian league, with the Women’s EHF Champions League top scorer Zsuzsanna Tomori again firing on all cylinders as she rifled in 12 goals.

A win would see FTC through to the semi-finals, leaving Oltchim on the brink of elimination before the final matchday, but the Romanian team’s Danish coach Jakob Vestergaard said he was confident about containing the biggest threat his team was likely to face.

“We know what to do but I am not going to reveal our plans and Tomori is not the only danger we will have to deal with, as FTC also have other fine players in Zita Szucsanszki, Piroszka Szamoransky and Monika Kovacsicz, to mention just a few of them,” said the Danish coach.

Containing Tomori and the rest of FTC will not be Vestergaards’s only problem after Oltchim’s line player Ionela Stanca left the club earlier this week over unpaid wages.

“She is free to go and sign for another club. We are very disappointed to lose Stanca but she is not irreplaceable. The club has helped her a lot but she couldn’t understand our problems,” Oltchim president Petre Berbecaru told Romanian newspaper ProSport.

Stanca’s departure leaves Oana Manea as the only natural pivot for Otlchim’s last two Main Round games, as the potentially decisive home clash with Krim Mercator follows their visit to FTC.

It means Oltchim are likely to keep relying heavily on Montenegrin right back Katarina Bulatović, the team’s leading scorer in the competition who steered Budućnost to the elusive title last season.

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević / cor