Favourites start with away gamesArticle
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GROUP B PREVIEW: The match between THW Kiel and PSG is in the spotlight, while Veszprém and Kielce need to be cautious at Celje and Brest

Favourites start with away games

With four former champions and the top favourites PSG and Veszprém, Group B of the VELUX EHF Champions League will have some mouth-watering clashes each week.

Round 1 is no exception, with PSG’s visit to Kiel as the most eye-catching encounter this weekend.

  • Paris will have their third straight season-opener in Germany

  • The PSG coaching duo and three players return to their former club

  • Ljubomir Vranjes has his first international match on Veszprém’s bench

  • Kielce have never lost before against their first opponents, Brest


HC Meshkov Brest (BLR) vs PGE Vive Kielce (POL)
Saturday, 16:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

Over the last 18 months Brest and Kielce have locked horns four times in the VELUX EHF Champions League. Kielce were always victorious - in the Last 16 of the 2015/16 season, and again in the group phase of 2016/17. So the team of Talant Dujshebaev are supposed to be the favourites when they meet again in Belarus.

While Meshkov are in a transition after many players left (including the top shooters Dainis Kristopans and Iman Jamali), Kielce have bolstered their squad with two top young guns: Alex Dujshebaev from Champions League winners Vardar, and Blaz Janc from Celje.

Brest coach Sergej Bebeshko knows that another ticket to the Last 16 will highly depend on their home results, but the hurdle to beat the 2016 champions looks quite high.

SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) vs Aalborg Handball (DEN)
Saturday, 17:30 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

A huge number of Danish fans will cross the border to see Aalborg’s comeback in the Champions League after their three-year absence. Or to see Danish playmaker Thomas Mogensen starting his last season in the Flensburg jersey before returning home and joining Skjern in 2018.

Flensburg will have to replace Swedish back-court ace Jim Gottfrisson due to a severe knee injury.

And they want to give their fans something to cheer about after already losing two of their four matches in the Bundesliga. The game will be the international debut of Flensburg coach Maik Machulla after the departure of Ljubomir Vranjes to Veszprém.

Both teams met before in the 2013/14 group phase, with Flensburg winning both encounters.

RK Celje (SLO) vs Telekom Veszprém HC (HUN)
Saturday, 17:30 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

A true classic in the Champions League as both Celje and Veszprém start in their 23rd season.

However, their goals are different. After just missing the Last 16 in the last two seasons, Celje are hoping to make the next step this time.

The duel with Veszprém will be the first Champions League match for new arrival Dani Dujshebaev.

Veszprém’s travelling fans are eager to see the result of Ljubomir Vranjes’ debut on the bench. Despite playmaker Aron Palmarsson being suspended from the squad, the Hungarian team’s aim is to make it to Cologne and to win the trophy for the first time.

History clearly favours Veszprém: from 12 matches, they won 10, and draw once. The only win for Celje dates back 11 years.

THW Kiel (GER) vs Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)
Sunday, 17:15 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

Just like last year, Kiel and Paris play each other in the opening round. Kiel won 28:27 a year ago. And while Paris had also lost their first match at Flensburg (37:31) a season earlier, they will now be eager to stop the curse in their third straight season-opener on a German court.

Coach Noka Serdarusic, his assistant Staffan Olsson and players Nikola Karabatic, Daniel Narcisse and Thierry Omeyer all have a long and successful THW history. For example, Omeyer was part of all three THW Champions League titles in 2007, 2010 and 2012.

Both sides did not start well in their domestic competitions: PSG lost the French Super Cup final against Nantes, and Kiel have already been defeated twice in the Bundesliga. Until November, the German team will have to replace their captain Domagoj Duvnjak, and even longer their left wing Raul Santos.

Norwegian top talent Sander Sagosen and Spanish goalkeeper Rodrigo Corrales will have their first Champions League matches for the visitors, who handed Kiel their biggest loss last season with a 42:24 drubbing on home court.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / ew