Top of the table clash opens Group 2Article
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PREVIEW: Györ and Larvik will be looking to open up an early main round lead when they meet on Sunday

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Top of the table clash opens Group 2

With eight points each, Györi Audi ETO KC and Larvik begin the main round of the Women´s EHF Champions League together at the top of Group 2 without even throwing a ball.

The explanation for this situation is, of course, that teams in the main round now take their points won against fellow qualified teams from the group matches with them.

Therefore, the match in Györ’s Audi Arena on Sunday evening, when Larvik visit the back-to-back champions winners, may already give an indication of the eventual group winner.

As for IK Sävehof and HCM Baia Mare, it is a question of staying in the race for the quarter-finals when they meet in Sweden, while the winner between Viborg HK and Metz Handball will boost their quarter-final hopes considerably.

IK Sävehof (SWE) vs HCM Baia Mare (ROU)
Sunday 1 February 14:00 hrs local time live on ehfTV

For the second year in a row, Sävehof are in the main round. Only having one point with them from the group matches means the Swedish record champions are under pressure from the start, but a quarter-final berth should still be possible.  

Several Sävehof players were among the key players in the Swedish national team to win bronze at EHF EURO 2014 and if those players can reach the same level as they did in Hungary and Croatia in December, Sävehof may be in contention.

They will have to take the first step on Sunday afternoon in Partillebohallen, where they welcome a team under even bigger pressure.

HCM Baia Mare have an aim of reaching the Women’s EHF FINAL4, but as the only team in the main round without any point, that goal may be hard to achieve for the Romanian champions in desperate need of a win in Sweden in order to keep their hopes of proceeding in the tournament alive.

Györ Audi ETO KC (HUN) vs Larvik (NOR)
Sunday 1 February 19:00 hrs local time live on ehfTV

The highlight of the first round of games without doubt takes place when Györ take on Larvik in Audi Arena on Sunday evening.

Both teams have eight points with them from the group matches and are therefore share first place going into the first round. This obviously means that both teams are well on their way towards the quarter-finals, even at this early stage, and the winner in Hungary will take a major leap towards qualification.

At first sight, Györ would look like favourites, but missing key players such as Katrine Lunde, Jelena Grubisic, Anita Görbicz, Eduarda Amorim and Adrienn Orbán will take its toll against a Norwegian team strengthened by the return of line player and defensive expert Marit Malm Frafjord.

However, Györ will be able to present newcomer Kari Aalvik Grimsbo to their fans. The 30-year-old Norwegian national team goalkeeper will have her debut for Györ against a number of international teammates.

Viborg HK (DEN) vs Metz Handball (FRA)
Monday 2 February 19:00 hrs local time live on ehfTV

Metz are third in the group with four points, one point ahead of Viborg in fourth position. Therefore, the Danish champions are in need of a win, if they wish to keep a firm grip on a quarter-final berth, while Metz can take a huge step towards the knock-out rounds with an away win.

The champions of 2006, 2009 and 2010 could find it particularly tough to take both points, considering their narrow squad with Danish international Mette Gravholt and young talent Cecilie Dalmose the latest names on the injury list. With this in mind, the Danes have persuaded a couple of veterans to give a helping hand again.

34-year-old left wing Henriette Mikkelsen was part of the Viborg team all the three times the club has won the competition, while 42-year-old playmaker Heidi Astrup had her share in the first triumph in 2006. Both veterans, who had originally ended their careers, have taken to the court from time to time in the Danish league this season and now they are also ready to make their experience available to the team in Europe.

Whether they can make a difference in Viborg Stadionhal on Monday evening remains to be seen.

TEXT: Peter Bruun / cor