Kiel and PSG clash again as Zagreb aim to turn the tables on BrestArticle
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GROUP A PREVIEW: PSG have a huge motive to beat Kiel after losing last weekend’s classic on home court while Zagreb and Brest again face each other in a crucial battle for a top-four finish.

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Kiel and PSG clash again as Zagreb aim to turn the tables on Brest

With two rounds to go before the international break, the battle for the VELUX EHF Champions League Main Round berths is intensifying all around and the race appears set to go down to the wire in Group A, where Kiel and PSG are strong favourites to advance.

Their reverse fixture in Germany offers another classic which could decide which of these two teams tops the section at the end of the preliminary group stage, while Zagreb and Brest are headed for a fierce dogfight to avoid an early exit.

Finally, Naturhouse La Rioja entertain HC Metalurg as the Spanish side aim to cement third position in the group and stay firmly on course for a place in the knockout stages, while the Macedonian outfit are still hunting their first points of the campaign.
HC Metalurg (MKD) vs Naturhouse La Rioja (ESP)
Saturday 22 November at 19.00 hrs local time, life on ehfTV

Looking to stay ahead of Brest and Zagreb while also trying to catch up with Kiel and PSG, Naturhouse La Rioja will see this one as a must-win game and a perfect opportunity to achieve their objectives.

Decimated by the departure of several players amid a turbulent transition at the club, Metalurg fought valiantly in last weekend’s reverse fixture in Spain, where they also had the support of several dozen fans who made the long trip to Logrono.

The Macedonian side will be roared on by a full house on home court and vociferous support will be their best chance of what would amount to a shock win against the Spaniards, who have a deeper roster and a flowing attacking unit led by Thiago Goncalves and Pedro Rodriguez.

The prolific pair combined for 17 goals against Metalurg on home court and are again likely to be the main threat to the Macedonian outfit, whose Croatian coach Lino Cervar was confident his team would celebrate their first win in Europe’s premier club competition this term.

“If we can play better defence than we have so far, we have a fair chance of getting our first Champions League win of the season,” Cervar told a news conference in Skopje.

“La Rioja have two outstanding players in every position while we are struggling in back court as our starters have to play pretty much the whole game and hence we can’t keep up with the tempo, but we will play our hearts out for our fans because they deserve it,” he said.  
THW Kiel (GER) vs Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA)
Saturday 22 November at 21.00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV

If the giants of Europe’s club handball produce a blueprint copy of last weekend’s meeting in Paris, fans in Kiel and around the world set to watch the showdown will be able to say that they got their money’s worth.

PSG might have been slight favourites on home court but their star-studded outfit was brought crashing down to earth by a weakened Kiel side missing top scorer Filip Jicha and centre back Aaron Palmarsson.

Kiel warmed up for another clash of the titans with a 29:25 Bundesliga win at Göppingen, where playmaker Domagoj Duvnjak scored a whopping nine goals and right back Marko Vujin rifled in seven to carry their good form from the VELUX EHF Champions League into domestic competition.

The result left Kiel second in the standings level on points with Rhein-Neckar Löwen, while PSG also boosted their confidence with a 34:31 against Toulouse which kept them third in the French first division, a point behind Saint Raphael and four adrift of leaders Montpellier.

With Vujin and Duvnjak firing on all cylinders, PSG will bank on the shooting prowess of Danish left back Mikkel Hansen and the speed of winger Luc Abalo if they are to stand their ground in what is surely their most difficult group stage outing this season.

HC PPD Zagreb (CRO) vs Meshkov Brest (BLR)
Sunday 23 November at 17.00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV

A shoulder injury will keep Zagreb’s left back Domagoj Pavlovic sidelined for at least three months but the Croatian champions will be undeterred when they head into this vital home game against Meshkov, with the two teams locked in a tight fourth-place battle in their section.

In an effort to boost home support as much as they can, Zagreb’s players spent an afternoon with their young fans and dished out 700 tickets for the clash in the city’s imposing arena.

“We expect a full house on Sunday and if the turnout for our informal get-together with the fans is anything to go by, we are looking forward to a great atmosphere and hopefully a crucial win on Sunday,” goalkeeper Filip Ivic and teammate Teo Coric told the club’s official website.

Buoyed by a relatively comfortable win over the same opposition last weekend, Meshkov will head to Zagreb confident that they can complete the double over the Croatian champions and move a step closer to the VELUX EHF Champions League knockout stages.

A small group of fans travelling with Brest to the Croatian capital will try to make their presence felt in the cauldron of the Zagreb Arena as the Belarusian title holders aim to upset their rivals. 

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / br