Clash of titans in Paris set to light up the weekendArticle
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GROUP A PREVIEW: PSG and THW Kiel are poised to produce a fascinating contest in the city of lights, Meshkov and Zagreb face each other in a crunch battle for a knockout stage berth while HC Metalurg are looking for their first group phase win at Naturhouse La Rioja

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Clash of titans in Paris set to light up the weekend  

Few handball matches, even in Europe’s elite club competition, can thrill fans as much as the highly anticipated clash between rising force PSG and one of the continent’s long-standing giants, three-time champions THW Kiel.

The clash in Paris offers a who’s who in European club handball, with the likes of Mikkel Hansen, Luc Abalo and Thierry Omeyer facing Aron Palmarsson, Marko Vujin and Domagoj Duvnjak.

Although less glamorous perhaps, the match between Meshkov Brest and Zagreb will be just as competitive with both teams fighting hard to stay on course for a spot in Last 16.

Naturhouse La Rioja will be strong favourites to keep their campaign going when they entertain HC Metalurg on home court, with the Macedonian side yet to taste any kind of success so far this season. 

VELUX EHF Champions League Group A

Meshkov Brest (BLR) vs HC PPD Zagreb (CRO)
Saturday at 18:00 hrs local time, life on

If Meshkov are to retain realistic hopes of advancing into the knockout stage of the competition, this is surely a must-win game for the Belarus champions as they are up against one of the two teams standing in their way.

With Spain’s Naturhouse La Rioja on four points from as many games, just like Zagreb, Meshkov, who have two from four, must now turn their good from into results if they are to avoid early elimination.

Narrow one-goal home defeats at the hands of Kiel and PSG will have boosted Meshkov’s confidence in the sense that they showed the potential to stay in the hunt, while Zagreb might feel they have to improve their away form if they are to come away with something from a difficult outing.

“This is perhaps the most important game of the season so far and while defeat at Brest wouldn’t be a disaster, a win would mean a big step towards the Last 16,” Zagreb coach Veselin Vujovic told the club’s official website.

“We fully respect Brest and they have improved their form vastly since the start of the competition, hence we have to be focused and at the same time adventurous if we are to upset the hosts,” he said.

Zagreb warmed up for the clash with a 32:29 win over fellow Croatian rivals Nexe Nasice in the regional SEHA league, where Meshkov tuned up their own form with an impressive 30:22 defeat of Vardar Skopje.

Naturhouse La Rioja (ESP) vs HC Metalurg (MKD)
Sunday at 17:00 hrs local time, life on

Anything other than a convincing La Rioja win in this contest would be a major shock with Metalurg propping up the section on four defeats from as many games and losing players in alarmingly quick succession.

Line player Mijajlo Marsenic and Vuko Borozan were the most recent players to part company with Metalurg amid the club’s turbulent transition but the Macedonian giants will at least have the support of their die-hard fans who are set to make the long trip to Spain.

The “Pirates,” known for their frenetic home support, will make a 6,000-kilometre journey to Logrono and back hoping that Metalurg will draw some inspiration from their loyalty and put up a decent fight against the hosts.

La Rioja, on the other hand, must see the fixture as an ideal opportunity to cement their path towards the knockout rounds but will have to be wary of the good form of Metalurg’s centre back Luka Cindric, voted the SEHA league’s best player in that position last month.

The Spanish armada has its own aces up the sleeve though, with Albert Rocas Comas and Juan Antonio Garcia Lorenzana showing remarkable attacking firepower in their opening four games.

Whatever the outcome, a high-scoring fixture is on the cards as both sides have so far happily engaged in run-and-gun handball producing an avalanche of goals at both ends of the court.   

Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA) vs THW Kiel (GER)
Sunday at 19:30 local time, live on

Does it get tastier and more entertaining than this? Hardly.

Undefeated Paris Saint-Germain are at home to THW Kiel and although this titanic clash comes at an early stage of Europe’s premier club competition, there is little doubt that it will have the makings of a knockout stage tie.

It’s been a while since these squared off and PSG will not have happy memories of their last meeting as they suffered a 44:28 drubbing by Kiel in the return leg of their EHF Champions League Last 16 tie in the 2005/06 season, having lost the first leg at home 28:21.

That came after Kiel also won their other two encounters in the 2003/04 EHF Cup, winning 32:30 away after strolling to a 34:27 victory on home court.

Much has changed since, however, as PSG are nowadays a side boasting two world class players in each position, meaning that they can match the mighty Kiel in every department.

It took the French outfit some time to gel as a unit and start playing up to their potential after some heavy investment but once the process was completed, four ruthless wins from as many games showed just how menacing they will be this term.

Kiel, on the other hand, weathered an early storm when a patchy start in the Bundesliga was coupled with a shock opening defeat at Zagreb.

Still missing the talismanic Filip Jicha through a long-term injury, Kiel came storming back to prove their worth and there is little doubt they will be raring to go against opposition their own size.  

This is a fixture likely to keep handball fans around Europe and the rest of the world glued to their television sets and most probably on the edge of their seats from start to finish.

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / cor