Europe's premier competition begins with Friday night handballArticle
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TOURNAMENT PREVIEW: The 2014/15 season of the VELUX EHF Champions League throws off on Friday with Qualification Group 2 semi-finals in Hard, Austria

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Europe's premier competition begins with Friday night handball

At 17:00 hrs. on Friday evening, the first ball will be thrown in the new VELUX EHF Champions League season.

It will be at Sporthalle am See in Hard, where Qualification Group 2 is hosted by with Austrian champions Alpla HC and welcomes the finest clubs from Portugal, Ukraine and Italy.

These clubs are HC Motor Zaporozhye, Last 16 participants in the competition last season, Futebol Clube do Porto from Portugal, group phase participants last year, and finally Italian Junior Fasano, whose finest European result thus far is reaching Round 2 of the Cup Winners Cup in the 2008/09 season.

Only the winner among the four teams will reach the group phase and can look forward to playing in Group D.

Here, the opponents will be Polish champions KS Vive Targi Kielce, French champions Dunkerque HB Grand Littoral, as well Swiss title holders Kadetten Schaffhausen, plus two runners-up from their national leagues last season: Hungarian side Pick Szeged and Denmark’s Aalborg Handball.

HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR) vs Junior Fasano (ITA)
Friday 5 September at 17.00 hrs. local time

For Motor Zaporozhye, this match will be the start of the Ukrainian champions’ attempt to emulate the success of last season’s Champions League campaign.

Back then, “the Zappers” reached the Last 16 from a fourth place finish in Group A. Having made it that far, though, the Ukrainian team could not do much against THW Kiel in the knock-out phase, as the Germans took both matches comfortably.

Having more European experience and a number of internationals in their team, Motor should be favourites against Junior Fasano who are making their first attempt to qualify for the Champions League with a team consisting entirely of Italian players, with one exception in the form of Montenegrin left back Zelijko Beharevic.

Futebol Clube do Porto (POR) vs Alpla HC Hard (AUT)
Friday 5 September at 19.30 hrs. local time

Last year Porto were also in the qualification tournament for the group phase and were highly successful, as the Portuguese champions managed to win the tournament and qualify for the group phase, where they finished fifth in Group B.

With a taste of the big time, Porto are keen on repeating that achievement this weekend. First up will be the hosts Alpla HC Hard, who are expecting a tough weekend. And if one is to believe Hard manager Peter Thurnher, the group winner is not even to be found in this match.

“It will be very difficult to proceed, and I see Motor as heavy favourites in this group. We remember their qualities very well as we met them two year ago in the EHF Cup, and we also saw them last year in the qualification group in Vojvodina,” Thurnher recently told

3/4 Placement match
Saturday 6 September at 17.00 hrs. local time

The two defeated semi-finalists from Friday’s encounters will compete for the third place the following day. Both teams will continue in European handball, as the winner will go into Qualification Round 3 of the EHF Cup, while the loser will face the winner of Israel's Maccabi CASTRO Tel Aviv versus HC Potaissa Tudra of Romania in Round 2.

Friday 5 September at 19.30 hrs. local time

The two winners Friday’s matches conclude the event in Hard and decide which of them will reach Europe’s elite club competition this season. The losing team will continue in Qualification Round 3 of the EHF Cup.

TEXT: Peter Bruun / cor