The five best defences in the new seasonArticle
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FIRST-HAND INSIGHT: Ambros Martin may be gone from Györ, his legacy will surely be there to be seen, while other Women’s EHF Champions League contenders are beefing up on their defence
»2018-19 Women's News

The five best defences in the new season

Looking for a common denominator between Györ, Buducnost, CSM Bucuresti and Larvik, the teams that won the Women’s EHF Champions League in the last eight seasons, you can always pinpoint the defence. While all teams have had great attacking weapons, it was the defence that carried the biggest burden.

The trend will probably continue in the new season with the powerhouses always on the look to improve their defence.

A coaching change that saw Ambros Martin leave Györ for Rostov surely changed the dynamic of the season, yet the system he instilled at the Hungarian side should see them thrive even without line player Yvette Broch, who is taking an indefinite break from handball.

Title contenders Rostov and CSM, or surprise packages like Brest Bretagne, are all eager to take the crown off Györ.

5. Brest Bretagne Handball

The French outfit lost all six group matches last season, but their defensive displays were not catastrophic as their attack, the worst of the season, seemed to be the main problem. This season, Brest have both the top defence after six games in the French League, with only 122 goals received, but also the top budget, as their activity on the transfer market has been top notch.

Isabelle Gulldén will surely galvanise both the defence and attack, as she did in Bucharest, while the goalkeeper duo of Swedish Filippa Idehn and French Cleopatre Darleux will surely be one of the best in the competition.

4. Buducnost

Dragan Adzic is well known as a great defensive mind, leading Buducnost to the Women’s EHF Champions League titles in 2012 and 2015 through the defensive prowess of the Montenegrin team. Players have come and gone, but the system has remained largely in place and now a new golden generation is ready to step up.

Both Katarina and Andjela Bulatovic are back in the Montenegrin capital and will surely help their younger teammates. Goalkeeper Marina Rajcic has also returned, after three seasons with Metz Handball. Buducnost will hope to rebuild their confidence and re-establish their Moraca arena as a fortress for visiting teams. And this can only happen through great defensive displays.

3. CSM Bucuresti

The Romanian powerhouse has been ruing several ‘what if’ moments over the past few seasons, while their coaching situation, with several high-profile changes, did not help gel the team. Their offseason has also seen five important transfers, as Dragana Cvijic, Jovanka Radicevic, Barbara Lazovic and Andrea Lekic joined from Vardar, while Elizabeth Omoregie left Krim for the Romanian champions. On paper, Cvijic should be a great addition, while Lekic’s huge handball IQ should help boost the team in both defence and offense.

However, CSM have a mountain to climb until earning a FINAL4 berth this season. In a huge upset, they lost the Romanian Super Cup - 32:30 against SCM Ramnicu Valcea. The defence did not get the requested stops, while CSM will only have had four official games before their fiery start against FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria. New coach Magnus Karl Johansson has a lot on his plate until CSM will really find their way.

2. Rostov-Don

There have been serious changes in the Russian team, but this does not mean their defence will regress this season. Rostov lost against both Vardar and CSM at the Women’s EHF FINAL 4 in Budapest last season, but their defensive prowess was there to be seen during the whole season. They only conceded 386 goals, an average of 24.1 goals per game. Only champions Györ did better, with an average of 22.8 goals per game.

Rostov may have lost Alexandrina Barbosa, Ekaterina Ilina or Katarina Bulatovic, their main defensive core has remained stable. Anna Sen and Ksenia Makeeva have developed an impressive chemistry. And having Ambros Martin improve the team is also a big plus, the Spanish coach being renowned as a great defensive mind.

1. Györi Audi ETO KC

For the past six years, when Ambros Martin was in charge of the Hungarian side, Györ have always had spirit, grit and restlessness, with their defensive unit being their top advantage. This recipe has brought Györ four titles in the past six seasons, but there have been serious changes after the 50-year old Spanish coach signed with Rostov.

New coach Gabor Danyi is far from a new face, as he served as an assistant coach under Ambros Martin and will definitely try and keep the winning system up and running. Losing Yvette Broch will be a blow, but Györ still have a mix of fast players in Stine Oftedal and Nycke Groot, and elite defensive specialists like Eduarda Amorim and Zszuszanna Tomori to beef up a sturdy defence. Moreover, a trio of first class shot stoppers in Amandine Leynaud, Kari Aalvik Grimsbø and Eva Kiss will also work wonders for the title holders.

Now, who has the most effective attack? Read all about it here.

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / ew