La Rioja want to extend winning streak, Montpellier face Chekhov againArticle
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GROUP C PREVIEW: Top and bottom of the table are separated by just three points ahead of Round 4 in arguably the closest group of the VELUX EHF Champions League.

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La Rioja want to extend winning streak, Montpellier face Chekhov again

Group C will feature some cracking encounters in Round 4. All matches will be played on Saturday.

  • Top vs bottom in Skopje where Metalurg host La Rioja, both hampered by injuries

  • Montpellier play Chekhovskie in rematch of dramatic quarter-final from 2010

  • First-ever meeting between Presov and Elverum

TATRAN Presov (SVK) vs Elverum Handball (NOR)
Saturday, 16:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV

A great first half but still a defeat in Logrono. Tatran left Spain with no points but with their heads up high last week.

“We want to show a determined performance, based on an aggressive defence,” coach Rastislav Trtík says ahead of the Elverum match.

Leon Vucko expects dynamic handball from both teams.

“Elverum are a typical Scandinavian side, with quick transition and quality on the wings as well as on the line. Josef Pujol was their key player against Montpellier in the back court,” the Croatian line player says.

“A win would keep us in the contest for the top-two spots. A very important match for us.”

Elverum grabbed an impressive win against Montpellier at home last week. They stole the show in Norway and made the headlines around the country.

Coach Michael Apelgren is making history with his experimental way of playing handball.

The Norwegian team lost Petter Överby in a midweek league win against St. Hallvard. The 24-year- old line player scored 13 goals for Elverum in this campaign.

Morten Nergaard, with 11 saves last week, will be the key player to face Presov stars Oliver Rabek and Jakub Hrstka.

Nikolaj Mehl and Josef Pujol shall attack from the back court but how will they cope with the unorthodox defence?

Montpellier HB (FRA) vs Chekhovskie Medvedi (RUS)
Saturday, 20:30 hrs local time, live on ehfTV

The biggest budget does not guarantee wins. Montpellier were considered the biggest favourites of the group, yet they got themselves under pressure early on. A win against Medvedi is a must to keep the top-two spots in sight.

However, bad memories may arise during the rematch against Medvedi. In 2010, Montpellier lost on a penalty shootout in the quarter-final against the Bears, which advanced to the EHF FINAL4.

The current Montpellier squad contains two players from the 2010 team _ Vid Kavticnik and Michael Guigou _ while Chekhovskie still have three players who were involved: Goalkeeper Oleg Grams, who saved the decisive penalty, captain Dmitry Kovalev and line player Alexander Chernoivanov.

“Obviously the results are not up to what we expected. It’s annoying but there is nothing irreparable,” assistant coach Erick Mathé says.

A midweek league win in Aix was the first away win for Montpellier this season. At home, they are 100% with two league wins on top of a Champions League win.

Chekhovskie, which have never won in Montpellier, are on an eight-game unbeaten streak in all competitions.

Coach Vladimir Maximov was not fully satisfied with the second-half performance against Metalurg. His team have now two away games – in France and Slovakia – which will show how realistic their hopes of qualifying for the Last 16 are.

Metalurg Skopje (MKD) vs Naturhouse La Rioja (ESP)
Saturday, 17:30 hrs local time, live on ehfTV

While La Rioja are enjoying six straight wins in all competitions, Metalurg are struggling after a promising start to the season.

Albert Rocas made his return for La Rioja against Presov last week after a long injury, while Angel Fernandez returned to his best, scoring 10 from the flanks and after fast counter attacks.

Metalurg, however, are facing tough times. After their  tight home win against Elverum, they are winless in four matches in all competitions.

Filip Taleski scored 13 times against Elverum, prompting other opponents to eliminate his power.

According to coach Lino Cervar at the pre-match press conference, Nemanja Mladenovic got injured in training and will definitely miss the match.

“La Rioja, alongside Montpellier, are an absolute favourite. They are a well-composed team. They have a fast transition through Fernandez, Sanchez and Sanad on the right wing. The defence is high and not easy to break,” Cervar says. “We must not produce a lot of technical errors should we stand a chance.”

TEXT: Tomas Cuncik / ew