Big names collide in round 1Article
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ROUND PREVIEW: Opening round is already highlighted by top duels, including defending champions Magdeburg’s journey to Velenje
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The group phase of the European League Men starts with many famous and big names facing off on Tuesday. Three of the four participants of the EHF Finals 2021 are back again, including defending champions SC Magdeburg, while EHF FINAL4 participants HBC Nantes will also fight for the trophy.

Like in the debut season, all group matches of the European League Men will be carried out on Tuesday night, either at 18:45 or 20:45 CEST.

Right the first match day is highlighted by top duels such as Lemgo vs Benfica, Füchse vs Toulouse and Nantes vs Cocks. The top four sides in each group will proceed to the Last 16.

GROUP A

Füchse Berlin (GER) vs Fenix Toulouse Handball (FRA)
Tuesday 19 October, 18:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • Füchse were finalists in the 2020/21 European League season and reached six of the last eight final tournaments in Europe’s second tier
  • Toulouse surprisingly missed the knockout stages last season, due to a crucial group phase defeat against Fivers from Vienna
  • both clubs had an easy way through qualification: Fenix eliminated Hard (Austria) and Malmö (Sweden), while Füchse beat Azoty Pulawy from Poland
  • in the Bundesliga, Füchse are second ranked and undefeated, their only draw was against THW KielSTSV Hannover-Burgdorf.h
  • Toulouse had an extremely weak start in French league, currently ranked last after five defeats, including the 33:29 at home against Nantes last weekend, and only one victory.

Pfadi Winterthur (SUI) vs Orlen Wisla Plock (POL)
Tuesday 19 October, 20:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • Plock were semi-finalists in the 2020/21 season of the European League, and finished fourth after defeats against German sides Magdeburg and Rhein-Neckar Löwen
  • the biggest names among Plock’s new arrivals are the two Russian internationals Sergei Mark Kosorotov and Dmitry Zhitnikov, while Georgian Giorgi Tskhovrebadze arrived at Winterthur from Montpellier as their top transfer
  • While Pfadi were seeded straight for the group phase, Plock eliminated Romanian side Constanta in the final qualification round
  • after becoming Swiss champions, Pfadi’s long-term coach Adrian Brüngger resigned and was replaced by his former assistant Goran Cvetkovic.
  • after nine rounds in the Swiss league, Pfadi are third with five victories, one draw and three defeats and won their last match 34:29 against former champions Wacker Thun, while Plock are level with Kielce on top of the Polish Super League with six wins from six matches

TATRAN Presov (SVK) vs Bidasoa Irun (ESP)
Tuesday 19 October, 20:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • last season, both sides were part of the European League, Irun were eliminated in the final qualification stage, while Presov finish last in their group in the group phase
  • Irun’s coach Jacobo Cuetara is in his position since 2016, while Slavko Goluza is Presov’s coach since 2017
  • while Irun count on a mostly Spanish squad, Presov have nine different nationalities represented in their roster
  • the 31:29 against European League participant La Rioja was Irun’s fourth victory in their seventh match of the Spanish Asobal League, placing them fourth, Presov play the SEHA League alongside the Slovak league

GROUP B

Chekhovskie Medvedi (RUS) vs GOG (DEN)
Tuesday 19 October, 18:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • Chekhov and GOG both reached the European League quarter-finals last season. The Russian side was eliminated by Rhein-Neckar Löwen while GOG lost to Plock.
  • Chekhov were directly seeded in the group phase, thanks to their Russian title, while GOG had to get through two qualifying rounds - they qualified first against Celje (65:58 on aggregate) then Mors-Thy Handbold (57:51)
  • the two sides faced each other four times in the EHF Champions League since 2004 - both sides won their home games, both in 2004 and 2019
  • the best European performance for Chekhov dates back to 2010, when they reached the first EHF FINAL4, while GOG reached twice the European League quarter-finals, in 2006 and 2021
  • GOG are currently the undefeated leader of the Danish league, with seven wins in as many games. Last weekend, while Chekhov conceded their first defeat of the season in the Russian league last Thursday against Astrakhan, 33:32, but remain on top of the standings.

Cocks (FIN) vs HBC Nantes (FRA)
Tuesday 19 October, 18:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • last season, Nantes reached the EHF FINAL4, finishing fourth after losing to Barça in the semi-final. Cocks played the European Cup and were eliminated in the third round by Gorenje Velenje
  • both sides were directly seeded to the 2021/22 group phase, as Nantes finished third in the French league while Cocks were crowned Finnish champions for the 12th time
  • Cocks and Nantes never played against each other in European competitions and Cocks never faced a French side in Europe
  • Cocks are currently top of the Finnish league with six wins in as many games; Nantes already conceded two losses since the start of the French season and are currently fifth
  • Nantes will be missing their Danish goalkeeper Emil Nielsen, who suffered an ankle injury two weeks ago

TBV Lemgo Lippe (GER) vs Benfica (POR)
Tuesday 19 October, 20:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • TBV Lemgo are making their comeback in European competitions this season after an 11-season absence. The German side won the EHF Cup twice, in 2006 and 2010, and the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1996
  • The best European performance from Benfica dates back to 2011 and 2016, when the Portuguese side reached the Challenge Cup final
  • Last season, Benfica were knocked out of the European League in the first qualification round by Fivers
  • the two sides faced each other in the EHF Cup, back in 2010. Both Benfica and Lemgo won the away game, as the German side got through to the quarter-finals.
  • Both teams qualified for the group phase through the second qualification round. Lemgo defeated Valur Iceland (54:47 on aggregate) while Benfica beat another German team, Rhein-Neckar Löwen (64:59 on aggregate)

GROUP C

PAUC Handball (FRA) vs RK Nexe (CRO) 
Tuesday 19 October, 20:45 CEST, live on EHFTV 

  • Karl Konan of PAUC was voted best defender in the French domestic league last season
  • this years season marks the 13th in a row in Europe for RK Nexe
  • PAUC har started the domestic league in a great way this season shadowing PSG at the top of the table; Nexe won all of their league games so far this season in the Croatian league
  • PAUC made the biggest signing of the two clubs this summer by signing Tokyo 2020 gold medallist Romain Lagarde

RK Gorenje Velenje (SLO) vs SC Magdeburg (GER) 
Tuesday 19 October, 18:45 CEST, live on EHFTV 

  • last season the Slovenians made it all the way to the semi-finals in the EHF European Cup where they lost to eventual champions AEK Athens
  • self-confidence is not lacking in SC Magdeburg after they won the Super Globe by beating FC Barcelona 33:28 in the final
  • Gorenje’s start to the season has been unimpressive with just three wins in five league games
  • Omar Ingi Magnusson has been one of the best players in Bundesliga so far this season, the Icelandic international is almost unstoppable

IK Sävehof (SWE) vs BM Logrono La Rioja (ESP) 
Tuesday 19 October, 18:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • the Swedish champions lost their most important player, team captain Jonathan Edvarsson, to TSV Hannover-Burgdorf this summer
  • La Rioja has signed eight new players this season and Brazilian Leonardo Dutra Ferreirahas impressed the most 
  • keep an eye on Sävehof’s Elias Ellefsen a Skipagötu, one of the biggest talents in the world
  • La Rioja made it to the group phase by beating Spanish rival Ademar Leon in qualification

GROUP D

AEK Athens (GRE) vs Tatabanya KC (HUN) 
Tuesday 19 October, 18:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • AEK Athens are the first Greek side to play in the group phase of EHF European League 
  • the team led by Dimitroulias won the EHF European Cup last season, beating Ystads IF 60:54 on aggregate
  • coach Vladan Matic enters his seventh season with Tatabanya KC 
  • the ‘Tigers’ had 12 changes in the squad over the previous summer but for this season they decided to stick with their lineup 

Sporting CP (POR) vs Kadetten Schaffhausen (SUI) 
Tuesday 19 October, 20:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • Sporting CP has a new head coach in Ricardo Costa and their biggest signing this season is Natán Suárez
  • the Portuguese side has only one defeat this season 
  • since 2003/04, Kadetten have played in a European Cup every season, this is their 25th European campaign
  • team captain Dimitrji Küttel is back on court after going through cancer treatment

Eurofarm Pelister (MKD) vs USAM Nimes (FRA) 
Tuesday 19 October, 20:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • Pelister return to the European League group phase after they lost in the Last 16 against the champions SC Magdeburg last season
  • the Bitola-based team opened new season by winning Macedonian Super Cup against RK Vardar
  • Nimes goalkeeper (Remi Desbonnet) is under the spotlight since it is confirmed that this will be the last season at the club, he will be moving to Montpellier
  • only two players signed for USAM Nimes this summer: Henrik Jakobsen and young French right back Mathieu Salou

TEXT: Björn Pazen, Kevin Domas, Tiago Nogueira, Ola Selby
 
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