Clash of undefeated sides sets the mood for main round actionArticle
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ROUND 1 PREVIEW: The mouth-watering match-ups in the first round consist of three crunch games, with Rostov-FTC on top.

Clash of undefeated sides sets the mood for main round action

Two unbeaten sides, Rostov Don and FTC-Rail Cargo Hungária meet in the first round of the main round, while Thüringer are at Larvik and Baia Mare competes against Fleury Loiret. All teams involved must defeat difficult opponents, in order to keep the dreams of qualifying to the quarter-final alive. Let the fight begin!

Rostov Don (RUS) vs FTC-Rail Cargo Hungária (HUN) 09.01.2016, 14:00 CET

Rostov vs Ferencváros. The team with the second least conceded goals play host to the team with the most scored goals. A club with a 100-percent winning record welcome the other undefeated club. In Rostov, the first spot will be decided.

The Russian team has a great run of results, but after looking at their opponent’s home matches, Ferencváros, who advanced from a much easier group than their counterparts, stand a good chance to make it an even game. For this to happen, the Hungarian champions will have to take extreme care of goal machine, Ekaterina Ilina, and find a way past the excellent goalkeeping-duo of Katrine Lunde and Anna Sedoykina.

With 126 netted goals, Ferencváros scored at least 17 more times than any other team in the main round, which is worthy to note the team lost their most prolific player in the past summer. Zita Szucsanszki, Nerea Pena and Szandra Zacsik could cause problems for the Russian wall, but Jan Leslie is surely aware of the threat they pose.

Rostov have a chance to extend their lead to three points in Group 1, while Ferencváros can leapfrog the Russian team at the top of the group if they manage to win at Rostov.

Larvik (NOR) vs Thüringer HC (GER) 09.01.2016, 18:30 CET

All games are important in the main round but the first round clash of the Norwegian and German champions is a real crunch game for both sets of players. Larvik could make a big step towards the quarter-final, while Thüringer, who start the second stage of the Women’s EHF Champions League with one point, need to start winning their away games in order to keep their hopes alive.

Judging by their group match performances, Thüringer may have difficulties against the trademark playing style of Larvik; the fast and aggressive defense provides the groundwork for their lethal counter attacks.

The Mork sisters and Amanda Kurtovic are regularly the most prolific scorers for Larvik and their sinister presence could haunt Thüringer, who conceded the most goals among the main round teams.

However, the German team’s first half performance at Fleury demonstrated they are closing in on the form that rocketed them to the quarter-final last year. A win at Larvik seems like a long shot, but a positive performance could boost their qualification hopes.

HCM Baia Mare (ROM) vs Fleury Loiret Handball (FRA) 10.01.2016, 17:00 CET

The Romanian team may start the main round from last place of Group 1 with zero points, but looking at their roster, Baia Mare have been under-achieving in the group stage. The Romanian runner-up are hoping that Alexandra Do Nascimento and Valentina Ardean Elisei will rise to the level of the inspired playmaker, Allison Pineu, once the main round throws-off.

Fleury Loiret are enjoying a fabulous first ‘Champions League’ campaign, apart from the hammering suffered from FTC. The French champions are undefeated and if they can continue their run of positive results, the Panthers can continue to dream of the quarter-final in their first ever adventure in handball’s premier competition.

Baia Mare simply cannot afford to drop more points, especially not in Maramures, if they want to keep fighting for qualification berths. Fleury, who have gained important ‘Champions League’ experience in the group matches, are definitely no pushover and will rely on their ‘big game specialists’ - Alexandrina Cabral Barbosa, Gnonsiane Niombla and Julie Foggea.

TEXT: Bence Martha/tm