La Rioja seek revenge, Porto face in-form PresovArticle
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GROUP C PREVIEW: November matches tend to be the most important in the competition as the promotion candidates face tests of their mental strengths and physical preparedness.

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La Rioja seek revenge, Porto face in-form Presov

International break is over and fans are eager to see VELUX EHF Champions League action back. With four weeks left of competing in Groups C and D for two knock-out spots in each group, tension is building up.

Meshkov Brest and Porto are on the road to battle for the points, as Porto face in-form Presov, whilst Meshkov Brest meet up enthusiastic Vojvodina.

The group leaders from La Rioja are favourites to grab crucial two points against struggling Medvedi from Chekhov at home, as they seek for revenge for their only loss in the competition.

VELUX EHF Champions League Round 7

Tatran Presov (SVK)  - Futebol Clube do Porto (POR)
Wednesday 11 November, 20:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV

It is almost three weeks since Presov played it's last game in the men's top European competition. Since then they have picked up great form, with three wins in SEHA regional league games and domestic championship.

International break meant number of players joined the national sides on both sides. Presov want to prove their European status on Wendesday evening in Tatran Handball arena against one of the promotion candidates FC Porto.

Dragons sit on third sport after losing to Brest on matchday six, yet they have ideal chance to bounce back in Presov. They have to take the lesson after their weak effectivity from the back court and bad defending in Belarus.

More is expected from the best scorer of the team Gilberto Duarte. With almost no chance to qualify for the knock-out, Rastislav Trtík wants to give chance to youngsters in green-white jerseys.

“I want to give the chance to young perspective players. We have ambition to build a great team, with mix of experience and young talented enthusiasm.”

Presov will have omit most probably Jakub Hrstka, Oliver Rabek and Dominik Krok, who all picked up minor knocks. Watch out for the age-denying Radoslav Antl, as he set the record in SEHA Leauge, scoring 17 goals against Maks Strumica.

Unlike in the CL, Presov sit on top in regional SEHA Leauge with only one defeat, and several excellent displays like against PPD Zagreb. Second worst goal difference in Champions Leauge, however, is a warning for the club.

Five players featured for Portuguese national side from FC Porto in 2017 World Championship qualifiers as Ricardo Costa's players travel to Slovakia refreshed after busy schedule in October.

Both teams have met in the opening week, Portuguese side prevailing heavily by ten goals. Things will not be easy for Porto, and surprisingly they are against the odds to win this tie in Slovakia.

Will the fine domestic form of Slovakian champion continue in the VELUX EHF Champions League or motivation to reach the knock-out phase and athletic performance of Portuguese side will bring them back to the top of the table?

HC Vojvodina (SRB) vs HC Meshkov Brest (BLR)
Saturday 14 November, 18:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV

Following their win against Porto at home, Brest are back in the race for the knock-out phase. A dream they have never achieved in the club's young history so far.

With eight points on their tally, a close race with FC Porto is expected. Sergey Bebeshko's men travel to Serbia on matchday seven to bring back home both points from Novi Sad to give themselves some breathing space.

When asked about the number of trophies BGK can collect this season, Vitaly Cherepenko answers: “We have two traditional tasks ahead of us to win the domestic championship and the cup. It's now time to win the SEHA League and get into the knock out in the Champions League,” said the goalkeeping hero of the match against Porto.

Serbian champions have never been even close to beating Meshkov Brest as all six head-to-head matches were convincingly won by the Belarusian outfit by at least seven goals margin.

Boosted by their SEHA League win against Vardar in Skopje, Brest are full of confidence ahead of their trip, despite having several injury woes.

Vojvodina will have a difficult task to stop the best attack in the group, led by Rastko Stojkovic and Latvian giant Dainis Kristopans. The match will feel special for the Serbian line player, returning to his home country.

Serbian champions play on Wednesday Serbian Super Cup game with another SEHA League contender Spartak Vojput. After that all their attentions turns to this match.

Youngsters are led by 17-year-old Jovanovic, who scored in all but one match and makes the perspective feature for Vojvodina.

Season might look worrying for Vojvodina, but two of their three wins were in the European most prestigious competition.

With support of their fanatic crowd in SPENS Arena, where the average attendance for Champions League reaches almost 3,000 spectators, Vojvodina learns the lesson this season.

Although Brest are obvious favourites to grab all points, it will not be walkover for them. Young enthusiasm will push Vojvodina players beyond the limit and if Luka Arsenic has his day, Kristopans and co. will have difficult task.

Naturhouse La Rioja (ESP) vs Chekhovskie Medvedi (RUS)
Saturday 14 November 18:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV

Leaders of the group from Logrono welcome Medvedi from Chekhov as they cruise their way to repeat last year’s success of reaching Last 16 of the elite European competition.

Do you remember matchday one and Alexander Kotov scoring a late winner to give Medvedi first Champions league win after 600 minutes? Well it was the only defeat of La Rioja this season!

Only the evitable opening defeat at Chekhov was a setback, from then on, La Rioja took the maximum ten points. No wonder La Rioja have made it into our top 10 power rankings of the season so far created by five Champions League experts - the only side to make it from Group C.

Alexander Kotov will miss trip to Spain because of suspension following post-match incident against Tatran Presov. On the other side, La Rioja will miss injured trio Pablo Cacheda, Albert Rocas and Javi Garcia.

Medvedi won both their matches in the season by single goal, but on the road they are yet to earn at least a point. Russian champions will heavily count on their captain Dmitry Kovalev, who joined the top ten scorers list with 39 goals.

Angel Fernandez and Pedro Rodriguez provide the biggest threat from La Rioja through the wings, with great shooting potential from Cristian Malmagro. The trio have scored 103 from 188 goals of the team and have the biggest impact as La Rioja have the third best attack in the whole competition after six matches played in each group!

What to expect from the match? Jota Gonzalez could make important step towards securing knock-out berth. Vladimir Maximov have to build on their defensive performance from the game against Presov. Expect fast counter attacks from star wingers of Logrono and strong 6–0 defence of Jota Gonzalez to put Russian back court under huge pressure.

Bears have young squad, which is learning their lesson. And although they have been a decent opponent so far, they somehow miss the winning mentality from the past at the moment. Something they need to pick up to lift their game and win important games.

TEXT: Tomas Cuncik / br