Unbeaten pace setters set off to tricky journeysArticle
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GROUP C PREVIEW: Vardar are trying to maintain their 100% record in Montpellier while Veszprém try to do the same in Celje

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Unbeaten pace setters set off to tricky journeys

No round goes by in VELUX EHF Champions League Group C without an instant handball classic. The fourth round will see Montpellier take on Vardar and Celje play host to Veszprém as the two visitors set off to keep their fight for the top spot even before they finally meet in the next round.

Celje Pivovarna Lasko (SLO) vs MKB-MVM Veszprém (HUN)
18 October 2014, 20:30 hrs local time live on ehfTV.com

The friendly atmosphere between the jolly Florijani of Celje and the predictably huge travelling crowd of Veszprém will set the tone for this handball classic, where there will be a lot at stake for both teams.

Celje are eager to hold on to their fourth place, which would grant them a place in the knockout stage, while Veszprém are keen to maintain their perfect record before their trip to fellow group leaders Vardar.

Veszprém will take on Celje without injured László Nagy and ex-Celje playmaker Máté Lékai, but even without the latter there will be a lot of familiar faces for the home crowd. Mirko Alilovic, Renato Sulic, Gasper Marguc and Mirsad Terzic all played in Celje at some point in their career.

Summer signing Christian Zeitz is also doubtful as he pulled out from the game against Montpellier due to a back injury.

Celje, who are hoping to surprise Veszprém just like they did for some periods of their games against Löwen and Montpellier, could have important players sidelined as Vid Potenko and Ivan Sliskovic are doubtful.

Celje can count on their quick-footed defence, counter attacking skills and the enthusiasm of their young squad against Veszprém, who won their last two matches at Celje and have been unbeaten against the Slovenian outfit for seven years running.

Montpellier Agglomeration (FRA) vs HC Vardar (MKD)
19 October 2014, 17.00 hrs. local time live on ehfTV.com

The French outfit is hard to predict. Should we see the Montpellier that fought all the way to the very end at Veszprém, then they stand a fair chance to beat Vardar on home court. But if they repeat their performance against Rhein-Neckar Löwen (or the first half against Celje) the unbeaten and high-flying Macedonian champions will have a walk in the park.

No doubt the home side will need the heroics of Vid Kavticnik and Mathieu Grebille just like in Veszprém where they both found the net nine times and Montpellier also need to tighten their defines as they allowed 94 goals in three games so far.

Vardar, however, are better at getting away with wretched periods of games as they managed to win at Celje and fought successfully against Löwen in last week’s Match of the Week, which the Macedonian team won thanks to a well-played ten minute period when they left the German outfit standing.

The visitors seem to have all the necessary skills. When it comes to fast breaks they call on Timur Dibirov and Matjaz Brumen (Vardar’s most prolific scorer against Löwen), Alex Dujshebaev, Igor Karacic and Sergei Gorbok take care of the artillery, while the well-organised defence is backed by Árpád Sterbik. Whoever takes them on are in for quite a test.

Montpellier and Vardar have never met before their first match will be a truly important clash for both sides.

Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER) vs Chekhovskie Medvedi (RUS)
19 October 2014, 19.30 hrs. local time live on ehfTV.com

Last year an Eastern European opponent arrived to Mannheim to a match that had been considered a piece of cake for Rhein-Neckar, but the point they eventually lost against Motor proved enough to lose the first spot in the group.

The situation is similar, as Medvedi are deemed hopeless and Löwen cannot afford another slip up as the German team is on the back of two straight defeats, albeit both came away and against the strongest teams of the group.

Rhein-Neckar are heavy favourites to beat the Russian champions and it is not likely that they will let the victory slip from their hands.

Chekhovskie lost the only game of the Group Phase in which they were not clear underdogs (against Celje at home) and although the Russian team’s attacking potential is without a doubt outstanding their defence can sure use some adjusting, as Medvedi conceded 111 goals in three games.

The outstanding attacking skill of the German outfit forebodes yet another heavy defeat for the Russian side. However, Medvedi can play absolutely free of pressure in Germany.

Four years ago the two met in the quarter finals of the VELUX EHF Champions League. After a narrow defeat away in Chekhov, Löwen beat Medvedi 36:28 in Mannheim.

TEXT: Bence Mártha / cor