Groups set for Vipers’ title defending seasonArticle
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NEWS: The 16 teams to contest the DELO EHF Champions League 2021/22 were drawn into their groups for the opening stage on Friday

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The 16 teams vying for the DELO EHF Champions League 2021/22 title learned their first obstacles on the path to the trophy on Friday morning when the draw for next season’s group phase was held in the EHF office in Vienna. The new season will feature six past winners of the title, as well as one club making their debut in the top flight.

Vipers Kristiansand will meet their DELO EHF FINAL4 2021 semi-final opponents CSKA in the group phase of their title defending season, with both sides drawn from pot 1 into group B.

2020/21 runners-up Brest Bretagne Handball managed to avoid their now classic rivals Györ in the group stage, as they were drawn into group A alongside FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria, who earned the coveted pot 1 spot based on their first domestic league title since 2014/15. As country protection was applied, Györ were automatically placed in group B, as were Metz Handball.

Also drawn into group B were 26-time Slovenian champions Krim Mercator Ljubljana; Odense Håndbold, fresh from winning their first Danish league and Cup titles; Champions League debutants Kastamonu Belediyesi GSK from Turkey, and Swedish side IK Sävehof.

Joining Brest and FTC in group A were Buducnost, heading into their 26th season in the top flight; Romanian side CSM Bucuresti; German club Borussia Dortmund; two-time DELO EHF FINAL4 participants Rostov-Don; Team Esbjerg from Denmark, starting their fifth season in the pinnacle competition; and Croatian team Podravka Vegeta, entering their 28th campaign in the top flight.

The draw was conducted by EHF President Michael Wiederer and EHF Chief Sport Officer Markus Glaser.

Playing system for 2021/22

The playing system for 2021/22 will be the same as that of the previous season. Matches will be played on Saturdays and Sundays.

The group phase is played in a round-robin format. Following the 14 rounds of the group phase, the two top-ranked teams in each group will qualify directly for the quarter-finals and those placed from third to sixth on their respective table will proceed to the play-offs. The two lowest-ranked clubs on each table will be eliminated at the end of the group phase.

The teams participating in the group phase were approved by the EHF Executive Committee earlier in the week. Country protection was applied for the draw.

Group phase schedule

The group phase shall be played in accordance with the schedule set out below, which is a guideline only. The season’s opening matches will take place on 11–12 September.

The EHF has the right to adapt this schedule in each group individually based on appropriate input and reason by any of the stakeholders. All final decisions lie with the EHF.

Round 1: 5 vs 2 and 6 vs 1 and 7 vs 4 and 8 vs 3
Round 2: 1 vs 7 and 2 vs 8 and 3 vs 5 and 4 vs 6
Round 3: 5 vs 1 and 6 vs 2 and 7 vs 3 and 8 vs 4
Round 4: 1 vs 8 and 2 vs 7 and 3 vs 6 and 4 vs 5
Round 5: 2 vs 1 and 4 vs 3 and 6 vs 5 and 8 vs 7
Round 6: 1 vs 4 and 3 vs 2 and 5 vs 8 and 7 vs 6
Round 7: 1 vs 3 and 4 vs 2 and 5 vs 7 and 8 vs 6
Round 8: 3 vs 1 and 2 vs 4 and 7 vs 5 and 6 vs 8
Round 9: 4 vs 1 and 2 vs 3 and 8 vs 5 and 6 vs 7
Round 10: 1 vs 2 and 3 vs 4 and 5 vs 6 and 7 vs 8
Round 11: 8 vs 1 and 7 vs 2 and 6 vs 3 and 5 vs 4
Round 12: 1 vs 5 and 2 vs 6 and 3 vs 7 and 4 vs 8
Round 13: 7 vs 1 and 8 vs 2 and 5 vs 3 and 6 vs 4
Round 14: 2 vs 5 and 1 vs 6 and 4 vs 7 and 3 vs 8

Unprecedented digital engagement in 2020/21

The EHF Champions League digital platforms reached new heights in 2020/21, with now almost 750,000 followers across all channels, while 60 million views on video content and 11 million interactions were recorded throughout the season.

The overall reach for this season increased by 50 per cent for a total of 400 million, with 200 million of that on participating clubs and stakeholders’ own channels.

“It goes without saying that we are looking forward to next season with the goal of building on this success in 2021/22,” said EHF Marketing Managing Director David Szlezak.