Cool Kielce are red hot in power ranking
The group phase of the EHF Champions League Men 2021/22 is approaching its halfway point.
The current two-week break allowed us to put all 16 clubs under the microscope and rank the best 10 teams based on their performances in the first six rounds.
10. FC Porto
The rebuilding process is going well in Portugal. After losing key players such as Miguel Martins and Andre Gomes in the summer, Porto had a tough start to the season but recovered well with a win against SG Flensburg-Handewitt and a surprise draw with Barça in round 6. Their schedule before Christmas, however, is a challenging one, including a double-header against PSG.
9. Paris Saint-Germain HB
Five points from six matches is far from satisfying for PSG, who have been remarkably struggling in away games. They took only one point back to Paris from four away matches so far, getting a draw at Flensburg, and losing against Kielce, Barça and Veszprém. While Vincent Gérard has delivered stunning performances between the posts, many other players will need to step it up.
8. Pick Szeged
Twice did the Hungarian side take points in unexpected situations, after trailing in Kiel and Montpellier. However, Szeged also suffered a home loss to Elverum Handball in round 4 when everyone expected them to confirm their good September form. All in all, Juan Carlos Pastor’s team could have done better – but also worse. The next four games will tell us where they really stand.
7. Aalborg Håndbold
After winning only one away game so far – in Zagreb – it is evident that Aalborg’s strength is in their home arena, where they won three out of three. Missing Aron Palmarsson for the first three games and Mikael Aggefors since the opening match hasn’t helped last season’s finalists. Aalborg play against Kiel twice in the next two rounds, which will tell a lot about the direction they are going in this group.
6. Elverum Handball
For a side that lost so many players this summer, Elverum are doing well. They dropped a point in Zagreb but have since recorded three straight wins, including away games in Szeged and Brest. An earlier defeat in Kiel is their only loss so far. Centre back Tobias Grøndahl, scoring 36 goals, has been one of the standout players of the first six rounds. If Elverum keep it up, they have no worries about reaching the play-offs.
The titleholders are not as dominant as they were last season, having dropped three points and ‘only’ being ranked third after six rounds. While they had a unique perfect 20-out-of-20 season last year, Barça are now confronted with teams that gain belief they can get a point, or two, from the previously untouchables, despite in-form goalkeeper Gonzalo Perez de Vargas and top scorer Dika Mem (40 goals).
4. Telekom Veszprém HC
It has been a bit of an up-and-down season for Veszprém so far. The defeats in Kielce and Bucharest, however, could not spoil their masterpiece in round 3, when they became the first team since the 2020 final to hand Barça a defeat, for two points that feel like if they count double. With the likes of Rodrigo Corrales and Omar Yahia in fine form week after week, Veszprém could well end up taking one of those coveted top-two spots in group B.
3. THW Kiel
The huge loss loss in a MOTW in Montpellier was like a wake-up call for Filip Jicha and his men. The 2020 champions went on to take the points in Skopje in round 6, after a tough start. Even without key players such as Patrick Wiencek and Sander Sagosen, Kiel proved they are strong contenders for an EHF FINAL4 ticket once again, though some challenges are coming up before the winter break, most notably a trip to Szeged in round 10.
2. Montpellier HB
Who would have thought that, after six rounds, Montpellier would be leading group A, alongside Kiel? The French side overcame the absence of key players Valentin Porte, Marko Panic and Gilberto Duarte at different stages of the group phase so far. Young guns like Julien Bos, Kyllian Villeminot and Yanis Lenne have stepped up and proved they already have what it takes in Europe’s top flight.
1. Lomza Vive Kielce
The best attack in the competition, alongside Kiel, with 201 goals scored; the only team to have won five times in the first six rounds: Kielce have truly been on fire since the start of the season. After losing their opener at Dinamo Bucuresti, the Polish side recorded five straight wins, beating PSG and Veszprém in the process and scoring 38 goals on average across their last three games. With new players like French diamond Dylan Nahi already settled, Kielce are looking very good – but can they keep it up playing Barça twice and PSG away in the next three rounds?