Celje, Plock, Nantes and Magdeburg in top 10 of power rankings
Five of the 16 teams playing the Machineseeker EHF Champions League this season did not manage to qualify last year: Celje, Magdeburg, Nantes, Plock and GOG.
But their start to the new season proved that their absence was not due to a lack of level, as all five have already won at least won single game, making powerhouses shake along the way. If GOG did not make it into our top 10, they fell just short of a list where the other four do feature.
Reigning champions Barça are at the other end of the spectrum, topping the power rankings after finishing the first four rounds with the maximum of eight points. Only Telekom Veszprém HC managed to match this performance, and it is no surprise to find the Hungarian team just behind Barça.
10) THW Kiel
The 2020 Champions League winners have had an average start to the season in the competition. While they managed to take the points in their two home games against Szeged and Elverum, they fell short in Celje and Kielce. Their defence needs some perfecting, as the Zebras conceded 34 goals in each of the four games.
9) RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko
Celje have been making the most of their comeback in the Champions League. The Slovenian side have only won one game so far, but what a victory it was, at home to Kiel. Not only did they beat the 2020 winners, but they also gave Aalborg and Barça a good run for their money. And to top it all, Aleks Vlah sits on top of the scorers’ raking, with 33 goals.
8) Orlen Wisla Plock
Xavi Sabate has always been known as a tactical mastermind, and the Plock coach has given his opponents a headache again this season. Neither Porto or GOG could find the solution to his defensive set-up and that allows Plock to have four points already. Not bad for a team that have not played the Champions League since 2020.
7) HBC Nantes
Will Nantes make it to the EHF FINAL4, just like they did in 2017 and 2021? It is a long way to Cologne yet, but the French side has made a great start to this new season. Three wins, including one away in Celje, is as good as it gets. We will know what Nantes are really about in the next few weeks, when they play against Aalborg, Kiel and Barça twice.
6) SC Magdeburg
Had they not fallen harshly at home against Paris, Magdeburg would have had the perfect start to the season. More than a decade after playing the Champions League for the last time, the German club proved they belong among the best sides in Europe by defeating GOG, Dinamo and Zagreb.
5) Paris Saint-Germain Handball
Although PSG started their campaign with a defeat in Veszprém, they were quick to get back on track and remain on a three-win run. Not only did the French side defeat Plock and Zagreb on home court, but they also managed to take the points in Magdeburg, something that no-one else has managed to do this season.
4) Aalborg Håndbold
In the first four rounds, Aalborg managed to win the games they had to win, and could not upset last season’s finalists Kielce. Which is just fine, as the Danish side counts four points so far. Whether they can go far in this year’s Champions League will be decided before Christmas, as Aalborg face Kiel, Barça and Nantes twice. If they win some of these face-offs, they might be even higher in the next power rankings.
3) Lomza Industria Kielce
They might not have won all their games, but Kielce have been displaying amazing handball so far. Even though they lost to Barça, the Polish side look well in place, with summer recruits already in the right rhythm. Kielce’s goal, in the next six rounds, will be to take the maximum of points and to polish their team play before a gruelling schedule in 2023.
2) Telekom Veszprém HC
Veszprém are right where we expected them to be after four rounds. As many wins, some of them really convincing, including a victory against Paris in the first round. The Hungarian side seem to be driven by their hunger for success this season, as they had to fight all the way until the end in GOG to secure the points. For now, with players like Rodrigo Corrales and Petar Nenadic on top of their form, they look really hard to beat.
The reigning champions are back at it, as they have not lost one game in the Champions League yet. Even though they did not have to push it too hard in Szeged and Elverum, they dug deep into themselves to win at home against Celje and Kielce. Danish goalkeeper Emil Nielsen has been delivering stunning performances already and one thing appears for certain: Barça are in the right form for a three-peat.