High-profile clashes set the tone for play-offs
Four double-headers will determine who will join CSM Bucuresti, Metz Handball, Vipers Kristiansand and Győr Audi ETO KC in the EHF Champions League Women quarter-finals.
In the replays of the 2020/21 play-offs, WHC Buducnost BEMAX will try to get in the way of FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria one more time while reaching their 8,000th goal in the competition. The same goes for Team Esbjerg who meet once again with Brest Bretagne after being eliminated two seasons ago.
The Match of the Week sees Krim Mercator Ljubljana host CS Rapid Bucuresti, where coach Kim Rasmussen will make his European debut, two weeks after replacing Carlos Viver in a shock move.
PLAY-OFFS, FIRST LEG
MOTW: Krim Mercator Ljubljana (SLO) vs CS Rapid Bucuresti (ROU)
Sunday 19 March, 16:00 CET, live on EHFTV
- Champions League rookies Rapid will face Krim Mercator Ljubljana in the latter’s 299th match in the competition
- the game will mark the European debut with Rapid for new coach Kim Rasmussen, who has started his tenure with two wins in the Romanian league, 36:26 against Magura Cisnadie and 25:23 against HC Zalau
- the Romanian side had an immaculate group phase performance on their home court, losing seven of their eight conceded points in away matches
- Rapid had the fourth-best attack in the group phase, scoring 441 goals in 14 matches, 43 more than Krim
- Rapid’s top scorer in this season of the Champions League, captain Eliza Buceschi, has recently returned after an injury and is ready to feature in the match against Krim
- Ivana Kapitanovic, Rapid’s goalkeeper, has made the most penalty saves this season, 12 (40 per cent). However Krim’s Barbara Arenhart has made more saves overall – 137 (33.4 per cent), compared to 119 (31.8 per cent) for Kapitanovic
Rapid is an attacking team that runs a lot and transitions very well and quickly. We have been preparing for this and if we play good defence and come back quickly it will be great. If we approach the game in the right way like the last time against Bucharest, we can beat anyone and if we start the game with the right energy and believe in our goal, we can win. We have the right amount of self-confidence, we just need to show it.
Krim are an experienced team, physically strong, with very strong wings, a strong nine-metre line and very good goalkeepers. It will be a big test for us, but wherever we play and regardless of the opponent, we are going there to win, to give our best. We are 100 per cent focused, of course we want to win, but it will be very difficult, so we must play at maximum capacity to reach our goal.
WHC Buducnost BEMAX (MNE) vs FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN)
Saturday 18 March, 16:00 CET, live on EHFTV
- this will be the 14th encounter between the sides; the Montenegrin club came out as a winner five times and eight times the celebration went to the Hungarian side
- the last time Buducnost progressed from the play-offs was in 2020/21 when they beat FTC 50:48 on aggregate for a spot in the quarter-finals; FTC have not made the quarter-finals since 2018/19
- Buducnost finished fifth in group B with 13 points: six wins, one draw and seven defeats; FTC were third in group A with 15 points after seven victories, one draw and six defeats
- the Hungarian side is on a two-game winning streak; Buducnost did not play the last game of the group phase against Kastamonu Belediyesi after devastating earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria
- the Montenegrin club are only 18 goals shy from becoming the first club ever to score the 8,000th goal in the competition; they are currently on 7,982 goals
I expect a tough match, FTC has great players. We don't want to think about a result that would be good for us ahead of the second leg in Hungary, that can create pressure for us. We have to play at the maximum level and I believe we can win.
Storhamar Handball Elite (NOR) vs Odense Håndbold (DEN)
Saturday 18 March, 18:00 CET, live on EHFTV
- Storhamar have the lowest number of home wins of the teams in the play-offs – just two – having lost the last five matches in a row played at home
- Odense have won four of their last five away matches in the European premium competition, but have won only one away match in the knockout phase before
- only Buducnost have scored fewer goals per game from the teams that progressed to the knockout phases of the Champions League than Storhamar, who have netted9 goals per game on average
- Odense are aiming to secure their second quarter-finals berth in history, after making the play-offs in the last three seasons and the quarter-finals in their inaugural season in 2018/19
- the Danish champions have a very-well balanced attack, with four players – backs Mie Hojlund, Dione Housheer, left wing Bo van Wetering and line player Maren Aardahl – scoring at least 50 goals this season. Hojlund leads the way with 60 goals
It’s fun to meet Denmark's best team. We have reached our goal. And it's time to enjoy it a little. We have a reasonable top level which has proven to cause trouble for most teams. I am satisfied that we have won the matches we had to win to reach our goal, and that was to go through to the play-offs.
Brest Bretagne Handball (FRA) vs Team Esbjerg (DEN)
Sunday 19 March, 16:00 CET, live on EHFTV
- there have been only four previous meet-ups between the two; in the last encounter in the 2020/21 play-offs Brest Bretagne beat Esbjerg 63:54 on aggregate
- Brest closed the group stage in sixth place in group A – five wins, two defeats and seven defeats brought them 12 points
- the Danish side finished third in group B with 20 points after 10 wins and four defeats; the 28:29 defeat by Györ in round 14 left them without a direct ticket to the quarter-finals
- Women's EHF EURO 2022 MVP Henny Reistad is the competition's current top scorer with 107 goals after 14 matches of the group phase
- Brest's top scorer Djurdjina Jaukovic suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury and is out for the rest of the season; goalkeeper Cléopatre Darleux is also out for three months after a concussion, but Brest have brought in Darly Zoqbi de Paula from CS Gloria Bistrita in Romania
Photos © Fradi.hu; Olivier Stephan
It going to be two tough matches. We are not ecstatic to meet Brest already in the EHF Champions League Women play-offs.
Esbjerg is an incredible team on paper with almost the team from Norway and Denmark. Playing against girls like Reistad, Mørk or Tranborg is a very big challenge, but we also know that we will be playing at home, with our fans, and that in previous matches against this team, we were able to perform well. We have the will to commit ourselves fully to this opposition in order to hope to reach the European top 8 and shake up this hierarchy a little.