Up to three teams can book their Last 16 ticketsArticle
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GROUP A PREVIEW: Veszprem host Paris for the next top duel, Celje hope for their first point on home ground

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Up to three teams can book their Last 16 tickets

After 32 matches in Group A of the VELUX EHF Champions League have been played, the next four can confirm the first teams to book their tickets for the Last 16.

Regardless the result of their direct duel and the Match of the Week in Round 9, Veszprem and Paris can make it “officially” to the next stage, while a win against Plock and parallel defeats of Besiktas and Celje would provide Flensburg with the spot for the Last 16.

On the other hand, Celje hope for their first point(s) on home ground against a shaken team from Kiel.

SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) vs Orlen Wisla Plock (POL)
Wednesday 25 November, 18:30 hrs, local time, live on ehfTV

Flensburg are flying on the wings of success on international ground: It is not only the 39:32 win over PSG (SG were the only ones to beat the French side in the Champions League) but the mostly dominant five straight wins in the previous matches which make Ljubo Vranjes & Co. highly confident.

The first leg at Plock was the starting point, winning 34:30. Last weekend, Flensburg took the fortress in Zagreb in a very clear way. And by beating Plock again, the 2014 Champions League still could hope to finish on top of this group, having the re-matches against Veszprem and Paris still ahead.

And the statistics speaks for Flensburg, as they never were defeated by Plock on home ground. In overall, the balance is positive for SG with three wins and two defeats.

But also the Polish runners-up are back on track after the two easily-earned wins against Besiktas in the two previous rounds. Having seven points on their account, they are nearly through to the Last16, if nothing sensational will happen and they win their upcoming home matches against Zagreb and Celje.

HC PPD Zagreb (CRO) vs Besiktas Jimnastik Kulubu (TUR)
Thursday 26 November, 19:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV

It were the biggest headlines of RK PPD Zagreb this season: One day after the 30:32 defeat at Besiktas, Zagreb’s coach Veselin Vujovic resigned from his position – but only for one day.

After an intense talk with the club management and players he confirmed that he will remain their coach.

Now the Croatian champions do not only have the chance to take a revenge, but to end their negative series of five defeats in the last six matches, as they only beat Plock in that respective period.

Another win would consolidate the base for making it to the Last 16, as then Zagreb would increase the gap to the Turkish champions to decisive six points.

After losing both matches against Plock, Istanbul are with their backs against the wall, as the number of chances to add more points to those two they have on their account are quite limited.

From historical point of view the chances to take points in Zagreb’s fortress are even more restricted, as Besiktas never took any point in Champions League away matches so far.

MOTW: MVM Veszprém (HUN) vs Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA)
Saturday 28 November, 15:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV

It is the true match of the matches next weekend in the VELUX EHF Champions League: After seven straight wins and being number 1 in their group, PSG travel to Hungary full of confidence.

But Veszprem is out for revenge for their so far only Champions League defeat – the 27:29 at Paris in the first leg of this titans’ duel.

At PSG, Veszprem had to cope with extreme problems on the right back position, as three left handed players – Laszlo Nagy, Christian Zeitz and Peter Gulyas were out due to injuries.

Zeitz is still injured, but PSG have the same fate, as their regular right back Xavier Barachet will miss the match at Veszprem too.

If the hosts win, they are back on top of this group – and would have a great advantage for the major prize, skipping the Last 16 and entering the quarter-finals in a straight way.

PSG knocked down Kiel twice in the previous rounds, and the four former or current World Handball Players of the Year, Mikkel Hansen, Thierry Omeyer, Daniel Narcisse and mainly Nikola Karabatic, were cornerstones of their performances.

But Veszprem – backed by a sold-out arena – are eager to strike back. Their last defeat on home ground was in March 2012, when their next but one opponent THW Kiel left the arena victorious in the quarter-final second leg.

In the previous two seasons, Veszprem were the end of all PSG hopes on the way to the VELUX EHF FINAL4, as the 2015 finalists eliminated Paris twice in the quarter-finals. In 2013/14 with two wins, 2014/15 after a draw in Paris and a home win.

RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko (SLO) vs THW Kiel (GER)
Saturday 28 November, 17:30 hrs. local time, live on ehfTV

In November 2011, Celje beat Kiel on home court 31:28 – and now they hope for another upset to remain in the race for the Last16.

Having only two points on their account (from the win at Besiktas), the Slovenian record champions are below expectations. Since this opening win, Celje lost seven straight matches and are four points below sixth ranked team from Zagreb currently.

On the other hand, Kiel were hit hard by PSG, intermediately being down by eleven goals, in their last match.

The German side has already lost four times, their only away win was at Plock so far.

The hopes to finish on top of Group A have already been shattered at the three times Champions League winner. Their hope is the comeback of left wing Dominik Klein after a nine month injury break (torn ACT).

The 35:32 win in the first leg of this pairing was hard-earned for Kiel, after Celje had been ahead for a long time – so despite the completely different squads the duel in Slovenia is supposed to be a 50:50 one after both sides had lost both matches of the double-headers in the previous rounds.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br