Fierce battle for last-eight berths continuesArticle
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GROUP 1 PREVIEW: Montenegrin 2012 title holders Buducnost can book their EHF Champions League quarter-final spot at Krim Mercartor on Friday while the dogfight for the other three tickets appears set to go down to the wire.

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Fierce battle for last-eight berths continues

The EHF Champions League’s revamped format has already justified its expansion with the opening two main round weekends producing a string of superb contests and an avalanche of goals, setting the stage for a fascinating finale in Group 1 as five teams are still vying for three quarter-final spots.

With the competition’s 2012 winners Buducnost Podgorica virtually assured of a last-eight berth, as they need only one point from the remaining four games to seal their passage, the section’s other contenders still have it all to do and play for.

Buducnost should be strong favourites against regional rivals Krim Mercator on Friday, while Leipzig and Thüringer lock horns in an intriguing all German clash on Saturday.

Finally, Macedonian giants Vardar Skopje face a tricky visit to Russians Dinamo Sinara who edged closer to the knockout stages with last weekend’s impressive win at Thüringer.   


Krim Mercaror (SLO) vs Buducnost (MNE)
Friday 13 February, 18.00 local time, live on ehftv

If a pair or regional league meetings between these two teams this season are anything to go by, Buducnost should have a rather straight-forward task against Krim Mercator in Europe’s premier club competition.

However, the stakes in the EHF Champions League are much higher and so is the intensity, therefore the Montenegrin title holders will want to take nothing for granted against a side able to punch above their weight.

The odds are stacked against Krim though, after they suffered a 35:24 defeat against Buducnost last month following a 33:15 drubbing by the same opposition in September.

Buducnost strolled to a 28:21 home win against HC Leipzig last weekend although they missed first-choice goalkeeper Clara Woltering, as her absence was nullified by her understudies Marta Zderic and Marina Rajcic.

Romanian left back Cristina Neagu continued her good run of form with seven goals, making her the second-highest scorer in the competition with 54, one less than Leipzig’s Karolina Kudlacz.

Showing a plethora of defensive frailties in a 41:30 defeat at WHC Vardar SCBT, Krim Mercator will need to produce something special if they are to spring an upset.

HC Leipzig (GER) vs Thüringer HC (GER)
Saturday 14 January, 14.00 hours local time, live on ehftv

Pride and vital main round points will be at stake when Germany’s top two teams clash in this mouth-watering encounter bound to draw a capacity crowd in Leipzig and stir up the kind of passion and atmosphere which makes the Women’s EHF Champions League a joy to watch.

Neither side had much to cheer about in the previous round, with Thüringer crashing to a 33:30 home defeat to Dinamo Sinara while Leipzig went down tamely 28:21 at one of the competition’s favourites Buducnost.

Thüringer warmed up for the derby with a comfortable 29:22 Bundesliga win at SG Celle in which towering left back Nadja Nadgornaja shone and scored a game-high eight goals, while her Dutch team mated Danick Snelder rifled in six.

The result kept Thüringer top of the league ahead of Buxtehude and third-placed Leipzig, who also enjoyed a fine interlude with a 27:24 victory against Göppingen as the EHF Champions League’s top scorer Karolina Kudlacz led the charge with seven goals.

The current domestic form of both teams guarantees an enthralling contest likely to keep both sets of fans on the edge of their seats.  

Dinamo Sinara (RUS) vs WHC Vardar SCBT (MKD)
Sunday 15 January, 14.00 local time, live on ehftv

This has to be one of the group’s most intriguing encounters as in-form Dinamo will be beaming with confidence after their precious 33:30 win at Thüringer, while Vardar overcame a patchy start with a lop-sided 41:30 defeat of Krim Mercator in which no less than 12 of their players scored.

Vardar’s coach Indira Kastratovic will certainly be buoyed by her team’s high-scoring display, with Montenegro winger Jovanka Radicevic producing a vintage eight-goal performance while French prodigy Siraba Dembele added seven and Serbia playmaker Andrea Lekic chipped in with six.

“This was one of our best performances since I took over as Vardar’s coach and we now have to keep proving our worth in the upcoming games,” Kastratovic told the club’s official website (

Aiming to go at least a step further after last season’s third-place finish, Vardar’s backroom staff got a tremendous boost after acclaimed Danish coach Jan Pytlick joined the team’s coaching personnel on Wednesday.

A youthful Dinamo side, on the other hand, are one of the EHF Champions League surprise packages of the season and there is little doubt that the Russian side will be fired up in front of their noisy fans to make a giant stride towards the competition’s knockout stage.

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / br