Bucharest enter ‘must-win’ modeArticle
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GROUP 2 PREVIEW: After snatching a draw against Larvik, CSM Bucuresti have no room for error, while Györ are looking to tighten their grip on top spot in their Women’s EHF Champions League Main Round group

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Bucharest enter ‘must-win’ mode

Any other result than a win would be deemed a failure for CSM Bucuresti against Krim, as the current title holders are looking to dig themselves out from the hole that they sunk into during the group matches.

As Larvik and FC Midtjylland look likely to be battling it out for second place in the group, Györ are looking to extend their lead in the Group and try to secure a quarter-final berth as soon as possible.

  • Bucharest will be without Paula Ungureanu, with the veteran goalkeeper likely to be on the sidelines for at least one month, due to a knee injury
  • Midtjlland are looking for their first away win of the season in the European top competition, after a six-game winning run in Europe and in the domestic league
  • Györ will edge closer to a quarter-final berth if they maintain their good form against Esbjerg

RK Krim Mercator (SLO) vs CSM Bucuresti (ROU)
Saturday, 4 February, 17:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

If there is a definition of a “must-win” game in handball, this surely could qualify as one for CSM Bucuresti.

The title holders are still lagging behind in the group’s rankings after another below par performance, a draw on home court against Larvik last week, 26:26.

A late comeback was not enough for CSM to take their first two points in the group and the Romanian powerhouse face the prospect of an early elimination.

But the signs are still bleak, with another injury blow suffered this week as CSM managed to snatch a narrow win against CSM Roman, 27:24, Paula Ungureanu, the goalkeeper with the best save of Round 1, injured her right knee and will be out at least one month.

Therefore, CSM will have to make do with Jelena Grubisic and Alina Iordache between the posts, another setback for a struggling team.

“Every point is now decisive for us and our objective. We need to stay strong and attempt another brilliant comeback,” said Aurelian Rosca, CSM’s coach.

On the other hand, Krim looks to protect their home court, after they got the better of their group matches opponents.

Larvik, Sävehof and Esbjerg were no match for the Slovenian team at home, but with CSM visiting Ljubljana, Krim will have their hands full against a motivated powerhouse.

“We have to forget the painful loss against Györ and focus on the task we will have against CSM,” said Uros Bregar, Krim’s coach, after the 39:22 loss against the Hungarian champions last week.

The Slovenian side could be in serious trouble, after young star Elisabeth Omoregie suffered a knee injury.

Omoregie, who scored 34 goals in the competition so far, Krim’s top scorer, missed the game against Györ and is likely to be out for the second week in a row.

Larvik (NOR) vs FC Midtjylland (DEN)
Saturday, 4 February, 17:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

After a disappointing first half against Esbjerg in the Danish derby, Midtjylland came back to their senses and made a run to a 38:26 win against their counterparts.

With their 100% home record preserved, FCM is likely to target points in away games to ease their passage to the quarter-final after a three-year hiatus.

The Danish side will look again for goals from left back Stine Jørgensen, who produced a 12-goal performance, her best to date in the Women’s EHF Champions League.

FCM are on a six-game winning run, after disposing of HC Odense 28:23 on Wednesday in the Danish League.

“You have seen that we did not go full throttle for the whole game, rather we thought we kept our physical status in check for the game against Larvik.”

“We proved we can be very good when we are revving our engines and we hope to show that too in the Champions League,” said Kristian Kristensen, FCM’s coach.

On the other hand, it has been a tough week, a week full of “what ifs” for Larvik, after the Norwegian champions blew a three-goal lead with less than three minutes to go against CSM Bucuresti.

Larvik are still third in the group’s rankings, but would have been in a three-way tie with FCM and Krim if they won and, more importantly, with a four-point advantage ahead of the current title holders.

The hosts’ woes continued also this week, with a hard-fought win against Storhamar, 26:23, in the Norwegian league, with Larvik having to press until late in the second half to win the game.

The Danish side have historically dominated Larvik, as FCM won three of the four head-to-head games between the two Nordic sides. The Norwegian powerhouse’s only win coming in the main round, five years ago, a 27:22 success in Denmark.

Team Esbjerg (DEN) vs Györi Audi ETO KC (HUN)
Sunday, 5 February, 16:50 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

It was a flawless performance from start to finish from Györ, who are currently looking like joint-favorites with Vardar for this season’s European top flight.

With the business end of the Women’s EHF Champions League being in sight, the Hungarian champions are in no mood for a letdown, especially with them meeting Esbjerg, the group’s last-placed team.

It will be the first European game between the two sides and there is a gulf in experience between the two-time champions Györ and Esbjerg, who are navigating through their maiden season in the competition.

But the challenge is looking more and more exhausting, with Lars Friederiksen’s side recording their third defeat in a row on Wednesday, 25:28 against NFK Nykøbing in the Danish League.

However, it was the 38:26 drubbing at the hands of FCM last week who was more painful, as Esbjerg try to make do without Estavana Polman, who will miss this second part of the season due to pregnancy.

A rare piece of good news will be the comeback of Rikke Zachariassen, as the defensive expert missed the game against FCM, due to a concussion suffered in a training session.

But even with a clean bill of health, Esbjerg would struggle against a team whose motto is to take no prisoners between now and May’s Women’s EHF FINAL4 in Budapest.

While Heidi Løke will not return after she gives birth, as the Norwegian line player already committed her future to Storhamar, Györ found a good replacement in Tunisian Asma Elghaoui, who had a bright debut against Krim last week.

With Anita Görbicz slowly returning to top form, the Hungarian side are looking better and better and are huge favourites in Denmark, as a win would surely bring them closer to a quarter-final berth.

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / cor