Vardar and Veszprém in do-or-die clash for second placeArticle
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GROUP A/B PREVIEW: The Match of the Week features a fierce battle between Vardar and Veszprém, who tussle for second place in Group A, while Barça and PSG are looking to secure their group wins
»2018-19 Men's News

Vardar and Veszprém in do-or-die clash for second place

The business end of the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase is fast approaching and all teams are aiming to complete their objective, be it the group win and a quarter-finals berth or sixth and a Last 16 place.

Both Vardar and Telekom Veszprém look to be in form after the winter break, but only one team will be happy at the end of the Match of the Week on Saturday. A victory will see Veszprém leapfrog the Macedonian side into second place.

Seven teams are already through to the Last 16, and Barça Lassa and PSG can secure first place in their respective groups if they win and Vardar and MOL-Pick Szeged fail to earn two points.

While Brest are hoping to snap a nine-game winless streak in Group A, Skjern have their last chance to progress to the next round in a must-win home match against Nantes in Group B.

MOTW: HC Vardar (MKD) vs Telekom Veszprém HC (HUN)
Saturday 16 February, 17:30 local time, live on

  • Vardar won four of their first five home games in the group, while Veszprém have left three of their last four away matches with a victory

  • The Hungarian side stopped a nine-game winning streak for Barça Lassa last week, taking a 29:26 win

  • The game is crucial for the final standings, as Vardar are second in the group with 15 points, while Veszprém and Kielce are close behind, with 14

  • Veszprém won five of the seven mutual games, with Vardar’s sole win, 27:25, coming in the first leg this season. After that defeat, coach Ljubomir Vranjes left Veszprém

  • Veszprém coach David Davis spent several seasons as Vardar’s assistant coach, and also served as head coach of Vardar’s women’s team for several months. Davis and current Vardar coach Roberto Garcia Parrondo played six seasons for the same team

HC Meshkov Brest (BLR) vs Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER)
Saturday 16 February, 17:30 local time, live on

  • Once a team that fought for second place with big chances to secure it, Löwen lost three of their past four games and are now fifth

  • Brest could level their worst-ever winless run in the competition, as they head to their 10th consecutive game in search of a victory. They also hit this point in the 2004/05 and 2006/07 seasons 

  • The hosts are tied in sixth place with Kristianstad and Montpellier, on five points

  • Löwen left wing Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson could miss the tie, as he is struggling with his fitness level after an injury

PGE Vive Kielce (POL) vs Montpellier HB (FRA)
Saturday 16 February, 18:00 local time, live on

  • Last week, Kielce took a narrow 34:33 win against Kristianstad to climb to third place in the group, one point behind second-placed Vardar

  • Kielce are in the middle of an injury crisis, as playmaker Luka Cindric and right back Daniel Dujshebaev were joined on the sidelines by left back Alex Dujshebaev. Alex Dujshebaev suffered a knee injury against Kristianstad and will miss the business end of the group phase

  • The two sides have met in European competitions seven times, with Kielce taking four victories to Montpellier’s three. The Polish side won the first mutual game in this group 29:26

  • Both sides look in form, with Kielce boasting seven recent victories in all competitions, while Montpellier won their last six games

Barça Lassa (ESP) vs IFK Kristianstad (SWE)
Sunday 17 February, 19:30 local time, live on

  • The Spanish side can clinch first place in the group and a bye for the Last 16 if they win on Sunday and Vardar lose against Veszprém on Saturday

  • Barça’s nine-game winning streak was snapped by Veszprém in the last round. It was the Spanish side’s second loss in the group phase

  • The hosts have won all five of their mutual games against Kristianstad, including a 44:25 drubbing in the first game this season. It was Kristianstad’s worst loss ever in the European premium competition

  • Aron Palmarsson made his comeback in the 46:24 league win against Valladolid on Wednesday, after suffering a muscular lesion in January

Skjern Handbold (DEN) vs HBC Nantes (FRA)
Sunday 17 February, 16:50 local time, live on

  • Nantes won the first leg at home by eight goals, 35:27

  • If they are defeated, Skjern will only be able to compete for sixth place in Group A

  • Skjern lost their last three Champions League home games, while Nantes have not won an away Champions League match since March 2018

  • Skjern’s Emil Nielsen and Sebastian Augustinussen will play against their future club, as they both signed with Nantes for next season

MOL-Pick Szeged (HUN) vs HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR)
Sunday 17 February, 17:00 local time, live on

  • Szeged are undefeated in all competitions since November 28 and have not lost a home game since December 2017

  • In the first leg, the Hungarian side won by one in Zaporozhye after leading by six at half-time

  • Szeged are now sure of finishing among the top two teams in Group B, but must hope for two bad moves from Paris in order to reach the top spot

  • Szeged’s right back Zsolt Balogh announced his signing with Tatabanya for the next three seasons this week

Paris Saint-Germain HB (FRA) vs HC PPD Zagreb (CRO)
Sunday 17 February, 19:00 local time, live on

  • Paris are three points away from securing the top spot in Group B and a direct ticket for the quarter-finals

  • The French side are undefeated at home in the VELUX EHF Champions League since November 2014

  • In the first leg, Paris easily took the two points in Zagreb (32:21)

  • Zagreb are currently fourth in the group and could take a huge step towards the Last 16 if they come back from Paris with points

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / Kevin Domas / cg