New powerhouse and former winner take part in qualificationArticle
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Preview for the first draw of the Women’s EHF Champions League on Thursday in Vienna

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New powerhouse and former winner take part in qualification

One former winner and several other top teams, including one emerging powerhouse, of women’s handball are eagerly expecting the draw for the qualification tournaments for the 2013/14 Women’s EHF Champions League season.

The draw will take place on Thursday, 27 June 2013 at 14:00 hrs at the EHF Office in Vienna.

Four spots for the Group Matches are allocated to the winners of those tournaments. 15 teams from 12 countries are already confirmed for those tournaments to be played 14/15 September 2013.

Team number 16 will be the winner of the play-off matches of SERCODAK Dalfsen (NED) vs. Muratpasa B.S.K. (TUR), played end of August/beginning of September.

Only two teams per country in the Group Matches

The regulations for the qualification draw say that teams from the same country must be drawn into the same group, so it is clear that FTC Rail Cargo Hungária and ETV-Érdi VSE (Hungary) will end up in one tournament, just like the two Danish clubs - defending EHF Cup champions Team Tvis Holstebro and three-time EHF Champions League winners Viborg HK.

In the case of Norwegian sides Byåsen Trondheim and Tertnes HB Elite, they already know that they are going to face each other in the semi-final of one tournament.

As champions Dinamo Volgograd did not confirm their participation, Russia is only represented in qualification by runners-up Rostov-Don. The Romanian champions and semi-finalist from last season Oltchim Vâlcea have not registered for this season, so Romanian hopes to be part of the Group Phase rest on the shoulders of runners-up HCM Baia Mare.

Regardless of the composition the draw will bring – big names will definitely fall on their way to the Group Matches, as only the winner of those four tournaments will proceed.

For the first time in the competition's history, the EHF decided that four Wild Card entries will be eligible to take part in qualification, further increasing the standard of the tournaments.

Favourites and dark horses

One big favourite is FTC Rail Cargo Hungária. The Hungarian runners-up - including 2012/13 Champions League top scorer Zsuzsanna Tomori - missed the last season’s semi-finals by a narrow margin and have strengthened their squad with the signing of German back court ace Laura Steinbach.

The dark horse (and a team tipped to progress further than the Group Matches should they qaulify) is the highly improved Macedonian champions WHC Vardar SCBT from Skopje.

The team of legendary coach Irina Kastratović have started an incredible shopping spree to go all the way in the Europe's top competition: Amandine Leynaud and former World Handball Player of the Year Alison Pineau arrived from Vâlcea. Siraba Dembele from Randers (DEN) and Claudine Mendy (Budućnost Podgorica) complete the French quartet at Vardar.

Additionally, Macedonian international Julia Nikolić from Zvezda, current Women's EHF Champions League winners Jovanka Radičević (Montenegro) and Andrea Lekić (Serbia) from Győr, Tatiana Khmyrova (Russia, Volgograd) and Croat Maja Zebić from Zaječar have joined what is quickly becoming a dream team in Skopje.

Viborg, Holstebro, Trondheim, Rostov and German runners-up HC Leipzig are also in with a shout of proceeding, depending on the opponents they will have to face in the qualification tournaments.

The tournaments will be played in two semi-finals (Pot 1 vs. Pot 4 and Pot 2 vs. Pot 3), the winners make it to the final, the losers (and losers in the finals) will play in the Cup Winners’ Cup next season.

Seeding of teams for the Women’s EHF Champions League Qualification 2 Draw:

POT 1: FTC Rail Cargo Hungária (HUN), Byåsen Trondheim (NOR), HCM Baia Mare (ROU), Rostov-Don (RUS)
POT 2: Team Tvis Holstebro (DEN), HC Leipzig (GER), ETV-Érdi VSE (HUN), WHC Vardar SCBT (MKD)
POT 3: Winner of SERCODAK Dalfsen (NED) vs Muratpasa B.S.K. (TUR), LK Zug (SUI), Jomi Salerno (ITA), HC BNTU-BelAZ Minsk (BLR)
POT 4 (wild card entries): Tertnes HB Elite (NOR), Viborg HK (DEN), Fleury Loiret HB (FRA), RK Lokomotiva Zagreb (CRO)

Qualification 1 - knock-out match (played in two legs)

SERCODAK Dalfsen (NED) vs Muratpasa B.S.K. (TUR)

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor