Most balanced group throws off with crunch gamesArticle
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GROUP B PREVIEW: It is impossible to predict who will come out on top in a group with four national champions, but the picture will be made clearer by the opening matches this weekend.

Most balanced group throws off with crunch games

The Women’s EHF Champions League throws off this weekend with participants eager to prove they are contenders for the main round. 

The teams in Group B, which looks to be one of the most equally matched early on and is comprised of four national champions, take to the court for their first matches on Sunday.

Thüringer HC vs Fleury Loiret Handball
Sunday 18 October 14:00 local time

The reigning German champion rebuilt their team over the summer, but Herbert Müller has a few obstacles in his path. 

Not only will the team miss Nadja Nadgornaja and Franziska Mietzner, but the coach will also have to deal with an injury crisis with Sonja Frey, Beate Scheffknecht, Iveta Luzumova and German international goalkeeper Jana Krause all sidelined. 

There is a chance some of the injured players will return in time for the first game, but as it stands it looks as though Thüringer will welcome Fleury with a weakened team. 

The French champions, for whom Sunday’s game will be the first ever in the Women’s EHF Champions League, seem to have a good chance to mark their debut game with a great away performance. 

Ex-Thüringer superstar Alexandrina Cabral Barbosa’s international experience makes her one to look out for alongside Fleury newcomer and Spanish compatriot Elisabeth Chavez Hernandez. 

The German outfit are aware of the strength – particularly in defence –  of the visitors but they have a weapon of their own ready to fire: last year’s Best Young Player of the Women’s EHF Champions League, Eliza Iulia Buceschi. The Romanian left back will have to step up for her new club right from the start.

FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria vs HC Podravka Vegeta
Sunday 18 October 17:15 local time, live on ehfTV

The Hungarian and Croatian champions have both undergone big changes and are still trying to find their game without the prominent figures they lost during the off season. 

But at least coaches Goran Mrden (Podravka) and Gabor Elek (FTC) have the advantage of having met recently. The teams played each other twice in the pre-season, with FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria winning both friendlies. 

FTC are without their inspirational leader, Zsuzsanna Tomori and coach Elek will have to do without Serbian goalkeeper, Katarina Tomasevic, who is unable to play after a midweek injury. 

With Tomasevic sidelined FTC were left with one goalkeeper, so Elek decided to include Alena Abramovich in his squad. The 34 year-old Belarusian goalkeeper ended her playing career at FTC last year and has been working as a coach since.

The reigning Hungarian champion’s dynamics are certain to change this season as there are no heavy shooters in the squad, but the back court is loaded with fast players. However, Tomori was the focal point of the team’s defence as well, and whether Hungarian international Klára Szekeres can fill her shoes in the centre of FTC’s notorious wall remains to be seen. 

Podravka, who also lost several key players over the summer (Miranda Tatari, Andrea Covic, Jelena Trifunovic and Kristina Elez), will rely heavily on their defence, but the Croatian champions could have a problem with their lack of experience in Europe’s top flight.  

TEXT: Bence Martha / cg