Crunch time for Vardar as Dinamo eye quarter-final berthArticle
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GROUP 1 PREVIEW: Russians Dinamo-Sinara will book a ticket for the Women’s EHF Champions League Quarter-finals if they spring an upset at Buducnost while the group’s other four teams are locked in a tight battle for the remaining two spots in the knockout phase

»EHF CL Channel »2014-15 Women's News

Crunch time for Vardar as Dinamo eye quarter-final berth

Buducnost have already sealed their passage into the knockout stage but there is no doubt the Montenegrin giants will want to keep their unbeaten record intact when they entertain Dinamo-Sinara, with the Russian outfit also looking for a result that would seal their own last-eight berth.

Elsewhere, last season’s semi-finalists Vardar face a make-or-break home match against Leipzig in a bid to stay in the hunt for a top-four finish in their section, while Germany’s Thüringer will view their home tie against Krim Mercator as an ideal opportunity to stay on course for a quarter-final spot.

Women’s EHF Champions League Group 1

WHC Vardar SCBT (MKD) vs HC Leipzig (GER)
Saturday 28 February 19:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV

Following their crushing 33:25 defeat at Dinamo-Sinara last weekend which was also a sour debut for Dane Jan Pytlick, who arrived in Skopje as coach Indira Kastratovic’s advisor, Vardar have no room for error left if they are to avoid an embarrassing early exit.

Like in some of their group matches, the outcome exposed Vardar’s defensive weaknesses while the attack was reduced to fine individual performances by Andrea Penezic and Jovanka Radicevic, who scored seven goals each for the Macedonian giants.

Vardar will at least be boosted by the return of Russian right back Tatiana Khmyrova, who was out for four months with a shoulder injury and will make her first appearance of the season in Europe’s premier club competition in this vital clash against Leipzig.

“I know it’s difficult to catch up after such a long absence with just a few training sessions but I expect to play against Leipzig as I am ready both physically and mentally to help the team,” Khmyrova told the club’s official website.

“It was hard watching the games from the sidelines, especially the defeats. Most notably, the loss against Dinamo in Volgorgrad was hard as it is my former club and I spent eight years there.”

“Only a win will do against Leipzig and I am convinced we have it in us to reach the FINAL4 in Budapest.”

Leipzig too are reeling after a 34:25 home defeat by fellow German rivals Thüringer and the result has dented their hopes of reaching the knockout rounds, although they are still in with a shout.

But they will have to perform above their limits from now on, as the tough visit to Vardar is followed by an even more daunting home tie against Buducnost and finally the away fixture against Thüringer.

The bulk of Leipzig’s hopes of springing an upset in Skopje will rest on the broad shoulders of their Polish backcourt star Karolina Kudlacz, the competition’s leading scorer with 62 goals. 

Thüringer HC (GER) vs Krim Mercator (SLO)

Sunday March 1, 14:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV

The German title holders will expect nothing less than another emphatic win against the section’s bottom team after their emphatic rout of Leipzig and such an outcome would represent a giant step forward in Thüringer’s bid to reach the quarter-finals.

Thuringer warmed up for the clash against Krim Mercator with a 37:22 Bundesliga demolition of HSG Bad Wildungen Vipers in which Dutch international Danick Snelder stood out with 10 goals while Svenja Huber added six.

A bulk of other players also scored, instilling the much-needed confidence into coach Herbert Müller’s side who have performed above expectations in the competition.

Krim, in contrast, are going through a tough transitional season which has taken its toll after most of the club’s key players left during the summer break and the new-look outfit has so far struggled to feature as much more than also-rans in the main round.

However, Krim still have an outside chance of squeezing into the last eight and their influential winger Tamara Mavsar acknowledged that there must be no lapses in concentration if the Slovenian side are to spring an upset in Nordhausen.

“It’s a specific season but we have been left ruing the fact that we’ve had dips in every Champions League match this season, meaning that we must go to Germany determined to play two good halves of handball and not just one,” Mavsar told a news conference in Ljubljana.

Buducnost (MNE) vs Dinamo-Sinara (RUS)

Sunday March 1, 19:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV

The last game of this weekend’s Group 1 tripleheader should be an icing on the cake, as the top-of-the-table clash is expected to produce a handball extravaganza in the Montenegrin capital.

Having steamrolled into the quarter-finals with three games to spare, Buducnost will again be favourites against the season’s surprise package Dinamo-Sinara, who will arrive looking for a win or a draw which would also send them through.

Buducnost strolled to a 23:20 win at Krim last weekend, providing a fitting celebration of the club’s 66th anniversary.

The Montenegrin side took their foot off the gas pedal in the second half after carving out an eight-goal lead in the opening period and coach Dragan Adzic made it clear there should be no room for complacency in the upcoming matches on the biggest stage.

“I certainly can’t be happy with the fact that we relaxed in the second half and it was a lesson learned,” he said after the game.

Dinamo have nothing to lose in Podgorica after exceeding expectations so far but will certainly have to produce a better display than in the reverse fixture in Volgograd, when Buducnost ran out easy 25:18 winners, if they are to come away with something from the cauldron of Moraca Hall.

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / cor