Return phase starts as Paris take on Kolstad in MOTW
After the first half of the Machineseeker EHF Champions League group phase, plenty of questions are still to be answered, but a couple of things are for certain. The first is that no team will reach the end of the phase with 14 wins, as every team has experienced at least one loss so far. The second is that HC Eurofarm Pelister, RK Celje Pivovarna Laško and Orlen Wisla Plock have some work to do if they want to reach the latter stages.
In group A, Pelister are yet to take a single point, and the Macedonian side will have another opportunity to get off the mark on Wednesday against OTP Bank-PICK Szeged. Leaders THW Kiel will be seeking revenge after Aalborg Håndbold inflicted one of their worst defeats in recent times on them last week. Paris Saint-Germain Handball and Kolstad Handball, currently neck-and-neck in the standings, will face each other in Match of the Week while Industria Kielce will be looking for a home win against HC Zagreb.
In group B, the top duo Telekom Veszprém HC and Barça have home matches ahead against the bottom two; Celje and Plock, respectively. Defending champions SC Magdeburg travel to GOG, while FC Porto hope for revenge against Montpellier HB at home.
- after the first half of the group phase, these are the top two in group A. THW Kiel are leaders with ten points, Aalborg are second with nine
- in the first confrontation of the season between the two, Aalborg enjoyed an impressive win in Kiel (27:18)
- Aalborg set a new record in the Wunderino Arena, as the Danish side had never conceded fewer than 20 goals before in the EHF Champions League
- Niklas Landin delivered a masterclass against his former team last Thursday as he made 19 saves with a 51 per cent save efficiency
- both teams’ best scorers have netted the exact same amount of time since the beginning of the season. Kiel’s Niclas Ekberg and Aalborg’s Mikkel Hansen have scored 39 goals each
- last weekend, Kiel inflicted a first defeat of the Bundesliga season on Füchse Berlin (30:26) while Aalborg took the points in Skjern (24:21)
We had a really bad day on Thursday. We didn't find our performance and deserved to lose. We want to do better on Wednesday!
HC Eurofarm Pelister (MKD) vs OTP Bank - PICK Szeged (HUN)
Wednesday 22 November, 18:45 CET, live on EHFTV
- halfway through the group phase, Szeged are sixth in group A with seven points while Pelister are last with no points
- the Hungarian side won the first game between the two teams this season last week (34:26)
- Szeged received plenty of help from Roland Mikler, as the goalkeeper saved almost 60 per cent of the shots he faced
- with 156 goals scored, Pelister are the least efficient attack in the EHF Champions League
- Szeged’s Mario Sostaric is the third highest scorer of the competition so far, with 44 goals scored across seven games
- last weekend, Pelister took the points in the Macedonian league against Vardar Negotino (38:14) while Szeged defeated Eger in the Hungarian league (42:28)
Last week we played a good first half and a disastrous second half against PICK Szeged...that thing shouldn’t happen to us at the match in Bitola. We know them well, they will have a bigger rotation and some new handball players who did not play in Hungary. In front of our loyal fans, I believe in a better edition and a better result.
MOTW: Paris Saint-Germain HB (FRA) vs Kolstad Handball (NOR)
Wednesday 22 November, 20:45 CET, live on EHFTV
- before the return phase starts, both teams are level in third in group A, with eight points each
- Kolstad took two important points last week in the first meeting between the teams (36:31)
- Paris have now lost two games in a row, something that had not happened to them in the EHF Champions League since the 2021/22 season
- with 218 goals scored and 216 against, Paris have both the most prolific offence and the least efficient defence in the group
- Paris’ Kamil Syprzak remains on top of the top scorers’ list, with 49 goals, while Kolstad’s Sigvaldi Bjorn Gudjonsson is sixth with 42 goals
- both clubs took the points in their domestic games last weekend: Paris in Aix (39:31) and Kolstad against Haslum (31:23)
It's a very important game for the group standings, but also for our mentality. We've lost two games in a row in the competition, so we need to move forward together.
A lot of positives to take from last week's game, at the same time we have a lot to correct. We have to improve our defensive game, as well as make fewer technical mistakes in our offensive game. Certainly one of the toughest away games of the season before us
- the teams are close in the standings after seven rounds; Kielce stand in fifth place with eight points, Zagreb are two places down with six
- last week, the reverse fixture between the two sides was a perfect illustration of how even they are, as it ended on a draw (22:22)
- Matej Mandic was the hero of the day for Zagreb, as the goalkeeper saved 17 shots at a 47 per cent efficiency
- this was the first time in history that Zagreb did not lost against Kielce. Their previous record had been two losses, both in the 2016/17 season
- with 182 goals conceded, Zagreb currently have the best defence of the competition
- both teams remain undefeated in their respective domestic leagues after their weekend wins - Kielce against Legionowo (39:32) and Zagreb against Gorica (35:24)
Last week's match needs to be analysed, but also put out of mind. We have a lot of games ahead of us and we need to focus on what will be, not on what was. We need to get two points in our hall.
We'll do our best to focus on the cooperation their back players have with their line player - we took care of that well in Zagreb, and we'll try our best to repeat that in Poland. I think we've got the right to hope for, and believe in a good result.
Telekom Veszprém HC (HUN) vs. RK Celje Pivovarna Laško (SLO)
Thursday 23 November, 18:45 CET, live on EHFTV
- Celje still await their first point in the group phase after the 34:40 loss in the reverse match, while Veszprém took their sixth win in seven matches and the fourth victory in a row, keeping them level on top with Barça
- again, the Marguc brothers Gasper (Veszprém/three goals last week) and Mai (Celje/five) will have a family duel
- the two sides have met 17 times before. Celje’s only victory was in 2007
- while Celje won against Loka (34:32) in the Slovenian league, Veszprém did not have a domestic match last weekend
It's certain that we played our best match of the season in Barcelona, and anyone who understands handball and sports knows that the same level cannot be expected continuously, so it's normal where we are after the national team break. For me, of course, the most important thing is that we always play as well as possible, but actually a good average is the key.
I want from my players to correct some mistakes we made in the first match, we have nothing to lose. We will give our best and maybe we can get our first points of the season.
- SC Magdeburg took their fifth straight victory with a 35:27 win against GOG at home, secured by a 9:1 run in the last 13 minutes
- the two Danes Magnus Saugstrup and Michael Damgaard were Magdeburg’s best scorers against the Danish champions
- with 10 points to their name, Magdeburg are two points ahead of GOG
- last season, GOG beat Magdeburg at home; their goalkeeper Tobias Thulin played for SCM from 2018 to 2021
- in the top scorer list, GOG players are in positions three and five; Aaron Mensing with 44 goals, Emil Madsen with 43
- in the German Bundesliga, Magdeburg are the new number one after beating Eisenach and Berlin’s defeat at Kiel. GOG did not play in the Danish league last weekend
We are really looking forward to being visited by the world's best handball team again, and we hope that we can repeat last season's victory over SC Magdeburg. It is of course a really strong team that awaits us, but we saw last week that we can play with them, and we hope that the home ground can provide the extra percentages that it takes to hang on for the entire match.
The home win against GOG was hard-fought and they made life difficult for us for a long time. And we already experienced how difficult an away game at GOG can be last season. So we have to be ready right from the start.
- Montpellier did not have any problems taking a clear 35:24 win in the first meeting with Porto last week
- before the re-match, the sides are equal on eight points, Montpellier rank fifth, Porto sixth – and both are four points ahead of Plock
- the top scorers for both teams are Scandinavians; Swede Sebastian Karlsson has scored 42 times for Montpellier, including 10 last week, Porto’s Nicolaj Christensen of Denmark has netted 32 goals
- the two sides have faced off five times - Montpellier have won twice, Porto once, and both matches in Porto have ended in draws
- in the French league, Montpellier dropped a point with a 35:35 draw against Saint-Raphael, while Porto clearly beat Belenenses 38:25
The game with Montpellier at home is really important: on one hand, we want to clean up the bad image we gave them last week, and on the other, we want to be able to overtake them in the group standings. And thus be one step closer to the qualification for the next round
- the 28:25 scoreline in the first duel last week did not reflect Barça’s dominance, as the the match was decided at the score of 21:15
- Plock have won only one of seven matches against Barça so far, back in 2014
- Barça are on top of the table with five wins from six matches, equal with Veszprém; Plock have only won one of six matches, against Celje
- with seven goals, Dika Mem was the top scorer for the visitors in round 7. In total, the Barça team captain is ranked second in the top scorer list with 47 strikes
- Barça remain unbeaten on top of the Spanish league after beating Sinfin 44:25, while Plock won 35:13 against Tarnow to remain equal with Kielce on top of the Polish league
Photos © Kolstad Handball, RK Celja Pivovarna Laško
It will be a very tough match. They are a team that works quite well, very aggressive in defence. They take their time in attack and always stand up to us. They have a mix of experienced players and younger players. They have a very good team.
We are going to Barcelona without any pressure to enjoy the game as much as possible, but also filled with ambition. In the home encounter we caused Barça's players some problems. I think that even in the end we had our chances.