Barça, PSG and Szeged in race for first placeArticle
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GROUP A/B PREVIEW: The battle for leadership of group A is still a three-pronged one, while several teams are eyeing Kiel’s top spot in group B after the German side drew against Motor
»2019-20 Men's News

Barça, PSG and Szeged in race for first place

The battle for the top spot in VELUX EHF Champions League group A will live through another episode this weekend, as Barça play at home against SG Flensburg-Handewitt in the Match of the Week, while Paris Saint-Germain HB and MOL-Pick Szeged will travel to Aalborg and Celje. Barça, PSG and Szeged are within one point of each other at the top of the ranking.

This weekend looks to be one of the last chances for both Aalborg Handbold and Flensburg to keep their hopes for one of the three top spots in the group alive. After good starts, both teams are now chased by Celje, who could even leapfrog them if they were to beat Szeged on Sunday. 

At the bottom of the table, the return leg between Zagreb and Elverum will keep the winner still hoping for a Last 16 berth, while the losing side will be in bad trouble, five rounds before the end of the group phase.

Meanwhile, in group B, THW Kiel and Montpellier HB can clinch their berths for the Last 16 if HC Meshkov Brest lose against HC Vardar, while a crunch clash will see Telekom Veszprém HC and PGE VIVE Kielce face off as they battle for second place on the table, currently occupied by Montpellier.

MOTW: Barça (ESP) vs SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER)
Saturday 23 November, 20:00 CET, live on

  • Barça are currently top of the group with 14 points, while Flensburg are fifth with seven

  • this is the first of the two straight Match of the Weeks Barça will play

  • in the first leg of the confrontation, Barça won 34:27 in Germany

  • in four trips to Barcelona, Flensburg have never returned home victorious. Their best results were two three-goal defeats, in 1999 and 2017

Aalborg Handbold (DEN) vs Paris Saint-Germain HB (FRA)
Sunday 24 November, 16:50 CET, live on

  • PSG took their biggest win of the season and Aalborg suffered their biggest defeat of 2019/20 in the first leg, which the French side won 37:24

  • Paris are neck-and-neck with Barça for the top spot, while Aalborg are fourth in the group

  • PSG will play without Nedim Remili, who suffered from an ankle injury in last weekend’s game against Flensburg. The right back will be out for the next three weeks

  • on Wednesday, Mikkel Hansen levelled his best performance in the French league, scoring 14 goals in a single game against Créteil

HC PPD Zagreb (CRO) vs Elverum Handball (NOR)
Sunday 24 November, 17:00 CET, live on

  • both teams have only one point at the moment, thanks to a draw in the first leg of the confrontation (30:30)

  • with 194 and 185 goals scored respectively, Elverum and Zagreb have the least prolific offences in group A

  • nevertheless, Elverum’s Sigvaldi Gudjonsson and Lukas Sandell both feature in the top 50 scorers of the competition, after netting 36 and 34 times, respectively

  • out of the last seven games played, Zagreb won only one, against Metaloplastika in the SEHA League. Their recent record stands at five defeats, one draw and one win

RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko (SLO) vs MOL-Pick Szeged (HUN)
Sunday 24 November, 17:00 CET, live on

  • in the first leg, Szeged won comfortably at home, 31:24, after a level score at half-time

  • this defeat was the last to date for Celje, as the Slovenian side won their last five games, including the double confrontation against Zagreb in the Champions League

  • Szeged have not lost a match since 22 September in Paris. They are on a 13-game unbeaten series in all competitions

  • leader of the top scorer ranking early in the season, Bogdan Radivojevic is now ninth, with 45 goals. The top scorer for Celje, Josip Sarac, is not far behind, having netted 41 times

Montpellier HB (FRA) vs FC Porto Sofarma (POR)
Saturday 23 November, 17:15 CET, live on

  • after missing a Last 16 berth last season, Montpellier can secure one with a win on Saturday, provided Brest lose at home against Vardar

  • Porto’s last away game came with a huge surprise, a 28:27 win against Kiel, which improved the Portuguese side’s chances of an historic progression to the Last 16 

  • Montpellier conceded just 214 goals in the first eight matches, to hold one of the best defensive records in the competition

  • the sides have only met once in European competitions – three weeks ago, when Montpellier ensured a 23:23 draw in the dying seconds

  • Montpellier’s 17th goal will be their 6,500th in the VELUX EHF Champions League, a feat achieved by just five other teams – Barça, Veszprém, Kiel, Zagreb and Celje

Telekom Veszprém HC (HUN) vs PGE VIVE Kielce (POL) 
Saturday 23 November, 17:30 CET, live on

  • the teams are level on 10 points, in third and fourth place in the group – one point behind Montpellier

  • Veszprém are trailing only Barça in goals scored this season, having put 267 goals past their opponents, with their home average of goals scored at 35.8 per game

  • the Polish champions are on a four-game unbeaten streak, following three wins and a draw

  • Kielce have just three wins against the Hungarian side, including the 34:33 result three weeks ago. The Polish side only won once in Hungary, in 2012

HC Meshkov Brest (BLR) vs HC Vardar (MKD)
Saturday 23 November, 17:30 CET, live on

  • since replacing Spanish coach David Pisonero with Eduard Koksharov, Vardar won once, against Brest. They have only one win in their past five games

  • Brest won just once in their past 10 matches, but, in all competitions, all four of their wins this season came at home

  • the Belarusian side will have a mountain to climb if they fail to win on Saturday, as they are already six points behind a Last 16 berth, with only six games left in the group phase

  • Vardar won three of the five mutual matches, with Brest’s only victory coming in 2017. The Macedonian side won three weeks ago in Skopje, 36:31

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / Kevin Domas / cg