All teams in the mix for Last 16 berthsArticle
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GROUP D PREVIEW: With the first two spots already taken by Kielce and Szeged, Dunkerque, Aalborg, Schaffhausen and Motor are left to contest the two remaining places in the knockout phase of the VELUX EHF Champions League

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All teams in the mix for Last 16 berths

With qualification well and truly in the bag, Vive Kielce and MOL-Pick Szeged can afford to put some of their players to rest after a demanding World Championship. As for the remaining four teams in VELUX EHF Champions League Group D, a battle for survival ensues.

Although the race for the last two qualification berths between Dunkerque, Aalborg, Schaffhausen and Motor is likely to continue into the last round, the penultimate round could actually decide everything.

Kadetten Schaffhausen (SUI) vs MOL-Pick Szeged (HUN)
Thursday 12 February at 20:00 hrs local time live on

These two teams start the spring run of the VELUX EHF Champions League in totally different states of mind: while second placed Szeged have already reached the Last 16 and cannot finish neither above nor below their actual spot, Schaffhausen sit last in the group and only a win could keep their dreams of qualifying alive.

Szeged gave Schaffhausen a thorough beating at home (34:24), however, the Swiss outfit sorely missed their most prolific player, Manuel Liniger in Szeged. Kadetten are more likely to have a shot at victory at home as three of their four points to date were secured at home and the Swiss team now desperately need to do something big.

Reigning EHF Cup winners Szeged have enjoyed a great season so far, going unbeaten in the Hungarian league and already cementing their progression in Europe. Hungary missed the World Championship in Qatar but Szeged had a lot of players competing with the Swedish, Slovenian and Spanish national teams and the time is now over to catch their breaths before going into action.

Szeged have not won in Schaffhausen in almost a decade. Their last win came in 2006 and since then they left Switzerland empty handed on two occasions.

KS Vive Tauron Kielce (POL) vs Dunkerque HB Grand Littoral (FRA)
Saturday 14 February at 13:30 hrs local time live on

The Polish champions can afford to rotate their bench this weekend and allow a number of their World Championship stars to take a break, safe in the knowledge that top spot in the group is theirs, but their French opposition can do no such thing.

Dunkerque are desperate to hold on to third place in the group and a win in Kielce will put them in a promising position.

However, their defeat in Schaffhausen back in Round 3 means that even the final round can hold great importance for Dunkerque when the Swiss team come to town.

This will be the third meeting between the sides, last year the home sides emerged as winners on both occasions as they shared a group in the VELUX EHF Champions League. Kielce cruised past Dunkerque by 10 goals at home but the French took revenge at home (30:25).

Aalborg Handball (DEN) vs HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR)
Sunday 15 February at 16:50 hrs local time live on

The clash of the Danish and the Ukrainian champions is shaping up to be a huge game for both sides as no less than qualification is at stake when Aalborg take on Motor at home having beaten their counterpart away.

Aalborg won at Zaporozhye (28:25), which means the Ukrainian outfit need a four-goal win (or three with more goals scored) to leapfrog their counterpart, and as unlikely as that may seem, the Danish staff need to be aware of the threat Motor pose.

Zaporozhye have a tendency to put up a good fight in away games, their biggest defeat was a four-goal loss at Kielce and almost managed a draw in Szeged.

Apart from the Ukrainians fighting spirit away from home, the fact that Aalborg have not won a single game at home during this year’s competition should add to the Danish worries. Losing to Kielce and Szeged are justifiable, but Aalborg sorely miss the point Schaffhausen left their arena with.

The winner of this clash may not automatically qualify to the knockout stage and the defeated may not be out of the running completely, depending on the other outcomes this weekend.

TEXT: Bence Martha / cor