Barça and PSG aim for top spotsArticle
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GROUP A/B PREVIEW: While the battle for the Last 16 rages behind them, both Barça Lassa and Paris Saint-Germain need just one point to secure first place in their group
»2018-19 Men's News

Barça and PSG aim for top spots

With two rounds left to play, the VELUX EHF Champions League is entering the decisive phase. If they were to take one point each this weekend, Barça Lassa and Paris Saint-Germain Handball would secure the first spots in Group A and B.

In Group A, three clubs are still battling for the final Last 16 ticket, while in Group B, four teams can hope to make it to the knock-out phase. 

In Group A, Montpellier HB could clinch a place in the next round by defeating Barça, provided HC Meshkov Brest lose and IFK Kristianstad do not win. Any other result for the title holders would mean that everything will be decided in Round 14. 

In Group B, things could be set as soon as Sunday evening. If Skjern Handbold and RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko lose, that would send HC Motor Zaporozhye and HC PPD Zagreb to the Last 16.

IFK Kristianstad (SWE) vs HC Vardar (MKD)
Saturday 23 February, 19:00 local time, live on

  • The Swedish side have lost all seven of their games against Vardar, including this season’s clash in Skopje, which Vardar won 33:25

  • A loss for Kristianstad, combined with a win for Montpellier or Brest, would see the Swedish side mathematically out of contention for a Last 16 berth

  • Vardar’s three-game unbeaten streak ended with a defeat to Veszprém last week, but the Macedonian side are still in the mix for second place as they currently sit third – one point behind the Hungarian powerhouse

  • Kristianstad have lost three consecutive games and four of the last five matches, winning only one of their six home games

Telekom Veszprém HC (HUN) vs HC Meshkov Brest (BLR)
Sunday 24 February, 17:00 local time, live on

  • Veszprém are the in-form team in the competition right now, riding a five-game winning streak that has propelled them to second place

  • Brest ended their nine-game winless run in the last round with a 27:24 victory against Löwen, but face crucial games against Veszprém and Kristianstad in the race for the Last 16 berth

  • Veszprém have a clean sweep of three wins out of three clashes against Brest in the top European competition, including a narrow 29:28 victory in the first game this season

  • The Hungarian side can still clinch first place in the group, but need two wins in the last two rounds, as well as two Barça losses

Montpellier HB (FRA) vs Barça Lassa (ESP)
Sunday 24 February, 19:00 local time, live on

  • Barça will secure the group win and a quarter-final berth with only a single point in the last two rounds

  • The Spanish side are the only team in the group phase to score over 400 goals after 12 rounds, with an average of 35 per game

  • For the first time this season, Montpellier have won two consecutive games. They need at least another win to stay in the hunt for a Last 16 berth

  • Last seasons, Montpellier eliminated Barça in the Last 16 phase, on their way to the trophy

  • Barça dominate the mutual record, with seven wins out of 11 games in European competitions, including the 35:27 win in Barcelona in round 4

HBC Nantes (FRA) vs MOL-Pick Szeged (HUN)
Saturday 23 February, 17:30 local time, live on

  • Nantes won their first game since round 6 last weekend 

  • Last year, the French side defeated Szeged at home 30:26. Out of five confrontations, Szeged have taken the points twice – in 2014 in the EHF Cup, and then in round 2 of the Champions League this season (30:28)

  • Szeged have already secured a spot as one of the top two teams of Group B

  • The Hungarian side won their last two games in the Champions League by one goal

RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko (SLO) vs Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA)
Sunday 24 February, 17:00 local time, live on

  • PSG only need one point to secure first place in Group B and a direct ticket to the quarter-finals

  • A loss would eliminate Celje from the race to the Last 16

  • Paris will still be missing Benoit Kounkoud and Dylan Nahi

  • Celje earned their seven Champions League points this season at home

  • The Slovenian side have not won in the Champions League since mid-November when they enjoyed a success at home against Zagreb

HC Motor Zaporozhye (UKR) vs Skjern Handbold (DEN)
Sunday 24 February, 17:00 local time, live on

  • Currently counting nine points, Zaporozhye are sixth and have every chance to clinch a Last 16 berth. If Celje are defeated by PSG, Motor could even lose to Skjern and still proceed

  • For Skjern, this is a must-win. Even a draw would mean elimination for the Danish side

  • Motor are undefeated at home since September 2018. Flensburg, Zagreb and Celje all lost in Ukraine, while Nantes drew

  • Skjern lost their last four games in the Champions League and have not won a European cup game since September

HC PPD Zagreb (CRO) vs SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER)
Sunday 24 February, 17:00 local time, live on

  • Zagreb need two points to secure their ticket for the Last 16. They could even qualify without winning, if Celje lose to PSG

  • Zagreb won three of the last four games they played at home

  • The Croatian side were victorious in the first leg in Germany, 31:29

  • Flensburg hope to secure third place on the table and will take an important step towards doing so with a win on Sunday

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / Kevin Domas / cg