Paris aim to take Kiel’s fortressArticle
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GROUP A PREVIEW: THW vs PSG feature in the top duel of round 7 in this group, while Flensburg, Plock and Veszprem are in the favourite’s role

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Paris aim to take Kiel’s fortress

After beating Veszprem and taking over the top position in Group A of the VELUX EHF Champions League, Noka Serdarusic will return to THW Kiel, where his highly successful coaching career started.

Another win would manifest PSG’s leading role, while on the other hand, Veszprem could profit from a defeat. Round 7 of Group A will start already on Wednesday in Flensburg. All pairings will have their re-matches one week later.

SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) vs HC PPD Zagreb (CRO)
Wednesday 11 November, 19:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV

Ten times both sides duelled before in the EHF Champions League, seven times Flensburg were victorious, including all home matches.

The German side has won their last three matches and started with a sensational 39:32 against Paris in September.

In contrast, Zagreb were shaken after the setback in Istanbul (30:32). Coach Veselin Vujovic resigned only to return to the team atfer one day.

“This was a warning signal. I cannot tolerate performance like the one at Istanbul,” Vujovic said.

But having already six points on their account, the main goal to proceed to the Last 16 is still clearly in reach for the Croatian champions.

On the other hand, Flensburg are hit by another long-term injury, as Swedish back court player Jim Gottfridsson is out with a broken foot for several months including the EHF EURO in Poland.

And as two line players - Jakob Heinl and Anders Zachariassen - are also injured, Flensburg signed - a Croat. Kresimir Kozina arrived from Austrian champion Alpla Hard.

In the last three Champions League seasons, Flensburg were defeated only twice on home ground, by Kiel and Barcelona.

THW Kiel (GER) vs Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA)
Thursday 12 November, 18:45 hrs local time, live on ehfTV

Another “clash of the titans” for PSG after they beat Veszprem in Round 6 - and another chance for Noka Serdarusic to beat another of his former clubs after Paris won at Celje by 32:30.

For 15 years until 2008, Serdarusic was coach of Kiel, winning dozens of titles including their first Champions League trophy back in 2007.

But it is not only a return of the former coach, but the return of assistant coach Staffan Olsson (one of those legendary players with the shirt under the roof of Sparkassenarena) and the players Thierry Omeyer, Nikola Karabatic and Daniel Narcisse, who all wore Kiel’s jersey for several years.

And Karabatic has another story, as he, his brother Luka and William Accambray were part of the team, which caused the last THW home defeat in Champions League: MAHB Montpellier on 9 October 2011 (24:23).

Since then, the German record champions are unbeaten on home ground in this competition.

This fact and the series of six wins from six matches against PSG makes THW become the favourite on home ground. Eleven players on court on Thursday have already won the EHF Champions League at least once: Abalo, N. Karabatic, Narcisse, Omeyer and Vori from PSG and six of THW (Anic, Duvnjak, Jansen, Klein, Sprenger, Weinhold).

After losing already at Zagreb and Veszprem another defeat would be a clear setback for THW in their fight for winning the group, while PSG lost only once, their opener, 90 kilometres away from Kiel, in Flensburg.

Orlen Wisla Plock (POL) vs. Besiktas Jimnastik Kulubu (TUR)
Saturday 13 November, 16:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV

Are Besiktas strong enough to take their first ever away point in the VELUX EHF Champions League? The Turkish champions are boosted by their surprise win against Zagreb - and fly on the wings of hopes to Poland.

But due to their bigger international experience, their individual skills and the home court, Plock are supposed to be favourites.

In the previous season, both sides had already faced in the group phase, and Plock won both matches (28:19 at home and 33:30 away).

After six rounds, the Polish runners-up only have three points on their account, only one more than Besiktas - being a little below the expectations. A double success against Istanbul could mean to pass Zagreb in the optimum case, which would be a clear signal for the Last16.

RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko (SLO) vs MVM Veszprém (HUN)
Sunday 15 November, 15:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV

Veszprem’s right wing Gasper Marguc will have a trip to where it all started.

In the summer 2014 the Slovenian international transferred from Celje to Lake Balaton and continued his improvement.

With his current club, Marguc is in the favourite role despite the frenetic atmosphere in Zlatorog Arena. Even the statistics are in favour of the away team, as Veszprem won eight of ten Champions League matches against Celje.

The Slovenian champions are with the backs against the wall already after only one win (at Istanbul) in the previous matches. Veszprem were defeated for the first time this season prior to the national team break by losing at Paris.

After his finger injury break, right back Laszlo Nagy will return into the Veszprem squad, which will have another high hurdle before the trip to Celje: the SEHA-Liga top match against Vardar.

In case of a PSG defeat at Kiel and a win at Slovenia, Veszprem would enter the top position of this group again.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br