Top sides clash in Group C, Montpellier aim to extend winning streakArticle
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GROUP C/D PREVIEW: The top four teams in Group C meet in Round 6, while Sporting CP travel to Montpellier to challenge the only squad in the competition with a 100% record

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Top sides clash in Group C, Montpellier aim to extend winning streak

The VELUX EHF Champions League resumes this week following the international break, with Groups C and D halfway through their group phase schedule and favourites for the first two knock-out spots starting to emerge.

While, in Group C, there is a tough battle for the summit, Group D leaders Montpellier HB are by far the best in their section.

November is the month when most teams can make a big step towards success on both an international and domestic level.

• Besiktas aim for their first away win in head-to-head matches against Motor
• Are Sporting CP capable of stopping Montpellier? The French side are on a 14-match no-loss run in all competitions, including a five-match winning streak in the Champions League
• Skjern look for revenge against Kadetten Schaffhausen after a one-goal defeat in Switzerland
• Elverum visit Gorenje Velenje with both teams level on six points alongside Skjern and Kadetten Schaffhausen 

Skjern Handbold (DEN) vs Kadetten Schaffhausen (SUI)
Sunday 5 November, 16:50 local time, live on

There is not a more competitive group in the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase than Group C. Four teams hold an identical record of 3-0-2, and Abanca Ademar Leon trail by only two points, making the second half of the group phase even more exciting.  

Skjern still find it hard to accept the defeat against Kadetten three weeks ago, when they wasted a six-goal lead and suffered a narrow 25:24 defeat at home. Schaffhausen’s unstoppable centre back Gabor Csaszar scored nine – a memo for the Danish side to build on their concentration in defensive areas.

Between the two teams, Skjern represent both the best attack and defence, but the stats may mean nothing should they lose the game against Kadetten.

The sides met in the 2015/16 season, where they shared one win each.

Despite the recent results of three consecutive defeats in all competitions, Skjern are firm favourites with their powerful attack. Schaffhausen will require compact, aggressive and well-organised defence to stop Markus Olsson, veteran Anders Eggert & Co.

Kadetten learned the lesson for how to defeat Skjern in the Round 5 game, but can they play a full 60 minutes the way they played in the second half of that match?

Other Group C matches:
Abranca Ademar Leon (ESP) vs Dinamo Bucuresti (ROU)
Saturday 4 November, 19:30 local time, live on
RK Gorenje Velenje (SLO) vs Elverum Handball (NOR)
Saturday 4 Novembr, 19:30 hrs local time, live on

Montpellier HB (FRA) vs Sporting CP (POR)
Saturday 4 November, 17:30 local time, live on

Montpellier HB lead Group D with five wins out of five games. Coach Patrice Canayer’s men have been unstoppable, so it is of little wonder that the French powerhouse made it to number eight in our Power Ranking – the only team from Groups C and D.

With 10 points – five points clear of third spot – it will be very difficult for their group rivals to deny the French side a place in the play-offs.

“Our biggest strength is defence, and defence is everything in this sport,” says Sporting CP left back Pedro Valdez regarding the most important qualities the team possesses. But will that be enough to stop the best attack of the competition? Montpellier fired in 157 goals in five matches, which was the joint highest tally in the whole competition, alongside Skjern, after Round 5.  

Sporting CP beat Montpellier in a European match 21 years ago, but both teams have significantly changed since then. Valdez is aware that the Portuguese side face the biggest challenge of the season so far in Palais des Sports René Bougnol.

Montpellier are only three wins away from equalling the longest winning run achieved in Europe’s most prestigious club competition. Considering the current form, this seems like an achievable milestone for the French club.

Eight matches in 25 days will be a challenge for the French side, but first position in the Starligue and Group D of the VELUX EHF Champions League give Montpellier the right motivation to stay fully focused.

HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR) vs Besiktas Mogaz HT (TUR)
Saturday 4 November, 18:00 local time, live on

With Montpellier on a winning streak with five victories so far, it is looking increasingly likely that HC Motor Zaporozhye, Besiktas Mogaz HT, Sporting CP and HC Metalurg will fight for second place on the table. Matches between Motor Zaporozhye and Besiktas might be crucial when it comes to final standings, given the quality shown by both teams.

Ramazan Döne, the fourth best scorer in the EHF Velux Champions League 2017/18, scored only one in Istanbul in the first clash between the sides three weeks ago, while his Macedonian colleague, centre back Nemanja Pribak, stole the show with 12 goals. It was Bosnian right winger Faruk Vrazalic who secured the last-second draw for Besiktas (28:28) as they fought back from a half-time deficit.

In the past three meetings between the sides, the home team prevailed twice, before the stalemate in Istanbul in October. Can Besiktas pull off a surprise in Ukraine and take what could be a pivotal win?    

Besiktas have won both their away matches this season so far, against HC Metalurg and Chekhovskie Medvedi. On the other hand, Motor are unbeaten at home.

Everything is set for another thriller in Sport Complex Lokomotiv in Kharkov. It is not a match to decide the destiny of the group yet, but it could say a lot should head-to-head results decide at the end of the group phase.

Other Group D matches:
HC Metalurg (MKD) vs Chekhovskie Medvedi (RUS)
Sunday 5 November, 17:00 local time, live on

TEXT: Tomas Cuncik / cg