Veszprém, Raul Nantes shine in opening roundsArticle
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FEATURE: The Hungarian side and Dinamo’s Brazilian left back are among the star performers in the first three rounds of the group phase

»EHF CL Channel »2021-22 Men's CL

We might just be three rounds into the 2021/22 season of the EHF Champions League Men, but we know already one thing for sure: no team will repeat the perfect season Barça had in 2020/21, as all 16 teams have dropped at least a point already – including the defending champions.

So, who’s hot? And who can still improve? Who impressed the fans the most? Who is scoring easily?

Here is our early-season summary, a quick wrap-up of the EHF Champions League after the opening three rounds.

Who’s hot?

Telekom Veszprém HC have become the first side since THW Kiel in the 2019/20 final to defeat Barça, the team that won each and every match in 2020/21. Veszprém also took the points against Paris Saint-Germain HB in their group B full of EHF FINAL4 contenders. With former great Momir Ilic on the bench and players who underperformed last season now firing on all cylinders, including Rodrigo Corrales proving week after week he is one of the world’s best goalkeepers, Veszprém will show us in the next few rounds whether they can keep it up in months to come.

Who’s not?

HC Meshkov Brest made it all the way to the club’s first EHF Champions League quarter-final last season and started the new campaign with the ambition to go even a step further. But so far, the Belarusian side have been struggling. While they lost only once at home in the entire last season, they have now already been beaten twice in their own arena, by Kiel and Pick Szeged, while also losing the in-between away game at HC Vardar 1961. Brest must regain their defensive confidence quickly. Their next stop? A tough trip to last season’s finalists Aalborg Håndbold.

Look who’s back…

Gone are the days when a trip to Skopje meant that the opponents knew they would likely take the two points home. Vardar are getting back to the team they were up until 2019, the year of their second title triumph. Despite going through many changes last summer, the team led by Veselin Vujovic has quickly settled. And the Nyokas brothers, who signed with the club while the season was already underway, have fit in perfectly and contributed to the team’s last two victories. Also, the fans have been coming back to the Jane Sandanski Arena, providing strong backing.

Top action

Montpellier HB ended their wait for a first victory of the season in style last week, taking the points against 2020 winners THW Kiel (37:30) in the Match of the Week. Not only did the French side get a glorious win, they also showed some classy action. Hard to pick one: Whether Hugo Descat’s in-flight goal, or this teamwork concluded by Lucas Pellas after two behind-the-back passes…

Sweet: Swedes dominate top scorers list

Swedish players are finding the net with remarkable ease, as three of the top five scorers so far are from Sweden. After claiming the 2019/20 top scorer title, Niclas Ekberg is in the race again with 22 goals for Kiel after three rounds. His compatriot at SG Flensburg-Handewitt, Hampus Wanne, is just one behind at 21. And don’t rule out Aalborg’s Lukas Sandell, who stunned Montpellier with an 11-goal outing and is currently on 19 for the season.

Best late bloomer

Raul Nantes was already playing in the EHF Champions League nine years ago, with Abanca Ademar Leon. After that, the Brazilian left back travelled all over Europe, even landed in the French second division at some point, but has finally started to blossom – at CS Dinamo Bucuresti. The arrival of Xavi Pascual has had its effect on him, as the former Barça coach seems to have found a way to get the best out of Nantes. So far, the left back has netted 20 times, including that outstanding 11-goal masterpiece in Dinamo’s season opener against Lomza Vive Kielce.

TEXT: Kevin Domas