Preview of Round 5 of the EHF Cup Group PhaseArticle
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Mathematically only two teams can become group winners after this round – all constellations for the quarter-finals qualification

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Preview of Round 5 of the EHF Cup Group Phase

With only two Rounds to play in the Group Phase of the Men’s EHF Cup nearly nothing is decided concerning the quarter-finals. Due to the regulations of this competition, maybe four and maybe only three quarter-finals will be played – depending on the final ranking of HBC Nantes in Group D, the host of the EHF Cup Finals.

Only two teams can qualify definitely and under certain circumstances for the knock-out stage as group winners in Round 5. Rhein Neckar Löwen in Group B, if they beat Tatran Prešov and parallel KIF Kolding lose against Zaporozhye on home ground, and SC Magdeburg, if they win at Besiktas Istanbul. In this constellation, both German sides would have secured the top positions in their groups.

After four rounds only two teams are still unbeaten: Team Tvis Holstebro in Group C with two victories and two draws and SC Magdeburg with three victories and one draw in Group D. In three groups – A, B and C – three teams fight for the berth to the quarterfinals, in Group D mathematically all four teams still have chances to go on.

Group A

Frisch Auf Göppingen and Naturhouse La Rioja top the table by six points each ahead of RK Cimos Koper (four points), Eskilstuna Guif are out of the race by zero points.

If Göppingen (at Eskilstuna) and La Rioja (against Koper) win their respective matches of Round 5, the Slovenians are also eliminated from the knock-out stage. In this case the group winner would be decided in the final direct duel of those top teams.

If Göppingen and La Rioja lose on Saturday, three teams (including Koper) would have six points on their account before the final round.

If Göppingen and Koper win on Saturday, still the final duel of the Germans against the Spaniards must decide the final ranking – in this case a draw is enough for the Germans to finish on top. La Rioja beat Göppingen in the first leg by 25:23.

La Rioja can take revenge on home ground for their by now only defeat in the Group Phase (21:25 at Koper), Göppingen are in the clear favourite role against the Swedish team.

Eskilstuna Guif (SWE) vs. Frisch Auf Göppingen (GER)
Saturday, 19:00 hrs. local time
First leg: 26:37

Naturhouse La Rioja (ESP) vs. RK Cimos Koper (SLO)
Saturday, 20:00 hrs. local time
First leg: 21:25

Group B

Rhein Neckar Löwen and KIF Kolding are equal by six points, but the Germans have won the direct encounter thanks to their 28:25 victory in the second leg after the 23:25 in Denmark. In case both top contenders are equal in the final ranking, Löwen would be the Group winner.

Tatran Prešov (four points) do not only have their own fate in their hands, but can tip the scales for the top duo, as they still face Löwen and Kolding (but lost both first leg matches against them). HC Motor Zaporozhye are out despite the change of coach by still zero points.

If Löwen and Zaporozhye win their matches of Round 5, the Germans are already confirmed as group winners – but a Zaporozhye victory at Horsens (the KIF venue) would be more than a sensation.

In the first legs of the Round 5 pairings, Löwen were the lucky 34:33 winner at Prešov after a last second goal of Andy Schmid, HC Motor Zaporozhye also caused problems to Kolding, losing only by 21:24. But on home ground the Germans and the Danes seem to be the clear favourites.

So realistically the constellation on top of this group will be decided in Round 6 – with KIF having the higher hurdle to handle at Prešov. The winners of the Danish league main round will have to cope with the absence of Lasse Boessen who will miss both matches due to a shoulder injury.

Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER) vs. Tatran Prešov (SVK)
Saturday, 19:00 hrs. local time
First leg: 34:33

KIF Kolding (DEN) vs. HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR)
Sunday, 15:00 hrs. local time
First leg: 24:21

Group C

Group C is looking like the “group of death”, as all three applicants for the quarter-finals took points in their direct duels (which might be decisive, if Nantes qualify directly for the EHF Cup Finals).

Currently unbeaten Team Tvis Holstebro are on top by six points, followed by RK Maribor Branik (five points) and Orlen Wisła Płock (four points).

In this group the decision for the top ranked team will be taken definitely in Round 6. Elverum Handball Herrer are out for the race of the knock-out stage with only one point on their account.

Płock can be eliminated too this weekend mathematically if they lose their home match against the Norwegians and Maribor beat Holstebro in the top duel.

Finally Holstebro have the fate of the group in their hands, as they face both opponents in the final rounds. In case of an away victory at Maribor the Danes would definitely rank among the top two, but are still not confirmed group winner – if Orlen first beats Elverum and then would win their final match at Denmark by a difference of two or more goals after the 28:29 in the first leg, the Poles would be on the first position.

But Maribor seem to have the best cards in this poker game: They won both previous home matches and play at Elverum in their final group match – by winning both games the Slovenians would finish first.
Płock started their catch-up chase after two defeats by beating Maribor (including winning the direct encounter) and are clear favourites on home ground against Elverum on Saturday.

Orlen Wisła Płock (POL) vs. Elverum Handball Herrer (NOR)
Saturday, 18:00 hrs. local time
First leg: 27:25

RK Maribor Branik (SLO) vs. Team Tvis Holstebro (DEN)
Saturday, 19:00 hrs. local time
First leg: 26:26

Group D

In contrast to the “misty” situation in Group C, Group D can be decided not only mathematically on Sunday. If Magdeburg (seven points currently) win at Istanbul and Nantes (five points) beat Bacau, the first two positions are already confirmed before the last Round. And both top contenders seem to be favourites in those encounters.

Magdeburg have won the direct encounter against Nantes by an away victory and a draw on home ground – but the Germans need to be aware at Besiktas, as the Turkish champions showed their real face on home ground by beating Bacau. And their arena is a fortress.

If Nantes lose both final matches and either Besiktas or Bacau beat Magdeburg additionally, the French team would be eliminated – then four quarter-finals would be played.

Besiktas JK (TUR) vs. SC Magdeburg (GER)
Saturday, 17:00 hrs. local time
First leg: 18:33

HBC Nantes (FRA) vs. Stiinta Municipal Dedeman Bacau (ROU)
Sunday, 17:00 hrs. local time
First leg: 21:18

Regulations of the qualification process for the quarter-finals

If Nantes finish first or is one of the three best second ranked teams of the four groups, the club qualifies directly for the EHF Cup Finals. The other six teams have to play the quarter-finals which, in this case will consist of only three pairings.

If Nantes are the fourth ranked of the second ranked teams, they have to play the quarter-finals and is qualified for the EHF Cup Finals only if it wins the quarter-final. In this case, four quarter-finals will be played.

If Nantes are ranked third or fourth in the group phase, the team are eliminated from the competition but remains the local organizer of the EHF Cup Finals. All first and second ranked teams play the quarter-finals – by looking upon the constellation of Group D, Nantes can make it to the first or second ranked teams already if they win their upcoming match against Bacau on home ground on Sunday.

According to the regulation the ranking of the second ranked teams is determined after the completion of the group phase as follows:
a) Number of points in matches against the first and third ranked team of the group
b) Goal difference in those matches as mentioned at a)
c) Greater number of plus goals in the matches mentioned at a)

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br