Montpellier and Barca hope to avoid negative recordArticle
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GROUP A/B PREVIEW: Powerhouses Montpellier and Barcelona aim to avoid their second losses of the season in Round 2, while PSG look to extend their perfect multi-season home record

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Montpellier and Barca hope to avoid negative record

Defending champions Montpellier HB had a disappointing start to their VELUX EHF Champions League 2018/19 campaign, as they lost at home to HC Vardar in Round 1. The French side hope to avoid being the first title holders to open their following campaign with two straight losses when they meet Meshkov Brest in the Match of the Week on Saturday.

Barca Lassa also face the possibility of the poorest start to their Champions League campaign in eight years, but can count on home support in Palau Blaugrana as they take on Telekom Veszprém.

Elsewhere in Group A, HC Vardar look for a second win and Kielce host Rhein-Neckar Löwen. In Group B, Skjern and PSG also hope to collect their second victories, while MOL-Pick Szeged aim to end their series of losses to French sides.

MOTW: HC Meshkov Brest (BLR) vs Montpellier HB (FRA)
Saturday 22 September, 19:30 local time, live on

• Brest have a mixed record on home court against French sides, winning one game against PSG, 29:28, last season, and losing one against the same opponent, 28:29, three seasons ago
• Since the VELUX EHF FINAL4 format was introduced, no previous winner has lost their first two games in the next season – defending champions Montpellier are under pressure not to set this record
• Coach Manolo Cadenas will make his VELUX EHF Champions League debut as Meshkov coach on the home court. The Belarusian side lost their first home game this season on Tuesday in the SEHA League, 28:32 against TATRAN Presov
• The Match of the Week will be the maiden game between the two sides in Europe’s top competition    

HC Vardar (MKD) vs IFK Kristianstad (SWE)
Saturday 22 September, 17:30 local time, live on

• Vardar have a flawless record against Kristianstad, with six wins recorded in six games, including a 31:15 drubbing in the group phase last season
• The revamped Macedonian side, with new coach Roberto Garcia Parrondo, have the chance to win their second game in a row after disposing of title holders Montpellier last week, 27:24
• Vardar have started each of the past four seasons with at least three wins in a row and have reached the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in the last two seasons
• IFK Kristiansand haven taken only three away wins in 22 games played in the VELUX EHF Champions League

Barça Lassa (ESP) vs Telekom Veszprem HC (HUN)
Saturday 22 September, 18:00 local time, live on

• The Spanish powerhouse have the upper hand in the head-to-head record, with 13 wins from 18 mutual games. Barça also won the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in 2015 with a 28:23 result against Veszprém in the final
• The last season when Barça failed to win their first two games was eight years ago. Xavi Pascual’s side went on to win the VELUX EHF Champions League that time
• It will be a special – or at least interesting – game for Barça playmaker Aron Palmarsson. The Icelandic star left Veszprém last season for the Catalan powerhouse, after a lengthy stand-off between the two clubs
• 37-year-old Veszprém right back Laszlo Nagy will feel at home being back in Barcelona, after spending 12 years in Palau Blaugrana, where he won the VELUX EHF Champions League twice with the Catalan power-house

PGE Vive Kielce (POL) vs Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER)
Saturday 22 September, 18:00 local time, live on

• The two sides have a lengthy history in the premium European competition, having met 13 times, with five wins apiece and three games ending in stalemates
• An undermanned Löwen were eliminated by Kielce in the Last 16 phase last season, after losing with an aggregate result of 47:77
• Croatian duo Luka Cindric and Marko Mamic are slowly getting back in shape after injuries and could fea-ture against Löwen. However, the game will come too early for Uladzislau Kulesh and Mariusz Jurkiewicz
• Rhein-Neckar Löwen are undefeated this season, but their winning record was cut short last Sunday, when they drew 24:24 against Leipzig in the Bundesliga

Skjern Handbold (DEN) vs HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR)
Sunday 23 September, 16:50 local time, live on

• While Zaporozhye lost at home to Paris last week, Skjern already bagged two points away in Celje
• This will be the fifth encounter between the two teams. Since 2015, Zaporozhye have won twice, with Skjern taking one victory and the latest ending on a draw
• This is a rematch of last year’s Group C+D Play-off. Last season, Skjern finished undefeated at home in the Champions League
• Following last season’s successful campaign, Skjern have beaten their record for most season tickets sold

Paris Saint-Germain (FRA) vs RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko (SLO)
Sunday 23 September, 17:00 local time, live on

• Since 2015, they two teams played against each other four times, with Paris winning four times
• Paris are undefeated in Champions League home matches since November 2014, when they recorded their most recent loss, to THW Kiel
• The French side won confidently in Zaporozhye last week, while Celje are still without points following a loss against Skjern

MOL-Pick Szeged (HUN) vs HBC Nantes (FRA)
Sunday 23 September, 19:00 local time, live on

• Szeged and Nantes were both in Group A last season, and the French side took wins in both encounters: 30:26 and 30:33
• Last time Szeged won against a French team was in 2015, when they beat Montpellier
• For the second season in a row, Spanish right back Jorge Maqueda will play against his former club, Nantes. Last season he was with Vardar; now he wears Szeged’s jersey

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / Kevin Domas / Courtney Gahan