Top-two clashes spearhead intriguing roundArticle
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GROUP A/B PREVIEW: The top-ranked teams in the two groups will face each other this round. In the Match of the Week, Szeged hope to become the first this season to defeat PSG
»2018-19 Men's News

Top-two clashes spearhead intriguing round

Both group leaders, Barça Lassa and PSG, are facing their top challengers this round, as a series of key clashes complete the line-up for Round 9 of the VELUX EHF Champions League.

While PSG can afford to lose a game – which would be their first defeat of the season – and still top Group B, Barça could be leapfrogged by Kielce if they lose by a margin larger than 17 goals.

Elsewhere, Montpellier HB and IFK Kristianstad face each other in a do-or-die clash for a Last 16 berth, while Motor Zaporozhye and RK Celje do the same in Group B.

HC Meshkov Brest (BLR) vs HC Vardar (MKD)
Saturday 24 November, 17:00 local time, live on

• Brest are under increasing pressure regarding a Last 16 berth, as Montpellier and Kristianstad are closing in after the Belarusian side’s six-game losing streak
• Vardar are in a slump of their own, losing three of the last four games. They fell to fifth place in the group after a four-game winning streak to start their season
• The Macedonian side won two of their three mutual games versus Meshkov, including the 30:23 home game this season, but have never snatched a positive result in Belarus

PGE Vive Kielce (POL) vs Barça Lassa (ESP)
Saturday 24 November, 18:00 local time, live on

• After two commanding wins against Vardar, Barça have both the most effective attack (268 goals scored) and the most effective defence (215 goals received) in the group
• Barça are riding a seven-game winning streak – five games short of their longest winning run, which was recorded between 2011 and 2012
• It is a battle between the top two sides in the group, as Kielce have only lost once – against the Spanish side – in the last seven games in the top European competition
• Barça have won four of the seven mutual games, including a 31:27 win in the reverse fixture in Palau Blaugrana

Montpellier HB (FRA) vs IFK Kristianstad (SWE)
Sunday 24 November, 17:00 local time, live on

• Although the two sides sit bottom of the group, the game has a ‘winner takes all’ feeling, as these two sides and Brest are currently fighting for the last berth for the next phase of the competition
• After a five-game losing skid, Montpellier lost only once in the last three games and took their first win last week, 31:26, against Löwen
• With two wins three seasons ago and a draw in the reverse fixture this season, Montpellier are unbeaten against Kristianstad
• The Swedish side have always earned an away win each season they played in the VELUX EHF Champions League. After four away matches this season, they have yet to collect any points from their opponents’ arenas

MOTW: MOL-Pick Szeged (HUN) vs Paris Saint-Germain HB (FRA)
Saturday 24 November, 17:30 local time, live on

• The Match of the Week sees the two top clubs in Group B come face to face: Paris are first with 16 points and Szeged are second, three points behind
• Paris won last week in Flensburg (27:20) while Szeged lost their first home point of the season to Skjern
• PSG goalkeeper Rodrigo Corrales, who injured his ankle two weeks ago, is now fit and will travel to Hungary

HC PPD Zagreb (CRO) vs HBC Nantes (FRA)
Saturday 24 November, 19:15 local time, live on

• Nantes suffered their second home loss in the Champions League last weekend, against Zaporozhye
• Kiril Lazarov, Nantes’ top scorer in the Champions League (41 goals) will visit a club he spent five seasons with, from 2000 to 2002 and 2007 to 2010
• In the first leg, Nantes managed to score only one goal in the first 16 minutes, but claimed a three-goal win in the end
• Last season, Zagreb won by one at home, 23:22

Skjern Handbold (DEN) vs SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER)
Sunday 25 November, 16:50 local time, live on

• In the first leg in Germany, Flensburg took the win by four goals (26:22)
• It is a critical encounter regarding ranking towards Last 16 berths, as the losing side could fall out of the top six places
• Both teams are currently level on six points, with Flensburg in fourth and Skjern right behind in fifth

HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR) vs RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko (SLO)
Sunday 25 November, 17:00 local time, live on

• Motor have collected three points in their last two games, thanks a draw and a win against Nantes
• In the first leg, Celje won at home clearly, 33:28
• In his first Champions League game with his new team – the reverse fixture against Motor in Round 6 – French left back Willian Accambray scored seven
• Only one point separates these teams at the moment. Celje have six, one more than Zaporozhye

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / Kevin Domas / cg