Leipzig embark on a long journey to VolgogradArticle
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GROUP A PREVIEW: Old acquintances with a new makeover clash in Ljubljana, while German runners-up will face Russian champions in the first round of the new season.

»EHF CL Channel »2014-15 Women's News

Leipzig embark on a long journey to Volgograd

Krim Mercator reached their 20th Slovenian championship as expected and considering their performances in the past seasons, one could conclude that this season’s draw was favourable for them. But seizmic shifts occured in Ljubljana.

Dire financial situation caused a massive exodus of players and new (old) coach Marta Bon had to patch up the squad as best as she could. Only right wing Tamara Mavsar remained in the outfield and every match will be a new experience for a totally new team. Bon also counts on line player and French international Amelie Goudjo and Macedonian left back Mirjeta Bajramoska.

The two-times winners of the Women's EHF Champions League face a tough season and a steep learning curve among the best of Europe.

Dinamo-Sinara return to Europe’s elite after a year’s absence. The girls from Volgograd secured the Russian title in a narrow series with Lada Togliati and the coach Viktor Ryabykh is looking forward to at least repeat Dinamo’s success from the 2010/11, when they reached the main round. Their main weapon should be right back Anna Kochetova who was in fine form in the last season.

Her international teammates include line player Asma El Ghaoui (Tunisia) and right wing Anita Gace (Croatia), while the squad is rife with Russian talent. Due to distance from continetal Europe Dinamo will have a certain home court advantage but at the same time this will be a hindrance in away games. Having in mind the changes at Krim, Dinamo should be the favourite of the group.

Walz replaces samba time in Lower Austria

Hypo Niederösterreich are Austria’s perennial champions and domestically they have no real competition. After counquering Europe four times in the 90’s (five times total), Hypo NÖ have been lately mostly stuck in the group stage and are gunning for a promotion. They still have a strong Brasilian presence in the squad with Mariana Costa and Francielle Gomes da Rocha, although they’ve lost the bulk of the “samba girls”.

The new coach Ferenc Kovács, who has strenghtened the squad with young Austrian girls, is keen to make a mark and has set a goal of reaching the main round. It remains to be seen how far can one of the traditional outfits reach this season.

Leipzig have secured their CL spot on their home court by stunning Hungarian favourites FTC in the overtime of the decisive match of the qualification tournament (39:38). With Thüringer HC firmly established as Germany’s No. 1, Leipzig will try to upset the favourites home and abroad with mainly
home-grown talent.

They have lost their biggest star Susann Müller to Györ and have had quite a few injury problems before the begining of the group campaign. Coach Norman Rentsch has lost Isi Rösike with a broken finger, while Saskia Lang and Helena Hertlein have resumed training. Leipzig want to finish at least
3rd in the group and prolong their Euroean season into 2015.

Krim Mercator (SLO) vs Hypo Niederösterreich (AUT)
Friday 17 October at 19:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV

Both clubs are regulars in this competition, both have a long history of facing each other, both have tasted the success of being on the top of Europe.

But at least for now the golden era is a thing of the past for both outfits that have had to adapt to the new economic realities and new coaches as well. None more than Krim, who have lost almost an entire squad, but for Tamara Mavsar and two goalkeepers.

Hypo have too lost some of its Brasilian flare and have found mostly local girls to fill in. There really are very few reference points and it will be intriguing to see this match unfold the fog of war.

Dinamo-Sinara (RUS) vs HC Leipzig (GER)
Saturday 18 October at 16:30 local time, live on ehfTV

The German runners-up have already embarked on the long journey to Volgograd without freshly injured Isa Rösike, who stayed at home with a broken finger.

The return of Saskia Lang and Helena Hertlein means more options for Danish coach Norman Rentsch, who launches a new campaign looking for a spot in the Last 16. But overcoming Russian champions may prove to be too difficult.

There has been a lot of traffic during the summer in Volgograd, who are currently 4th position in the domestic Superleague. Look out for veteran Anna Kochetova and Croatian newcomer Anita Gace, who are supported by a wealth of talent and will be rightfully reaching for the top spot in this group.

TEXT: Grega Sever / br