Key decisions still to be made as group phase ends
The EHF Champions League Women 2022/23 group phase reaches its final round this weekend, with several clubs still waiting to find out their fate for the next stage.
All eyes in group B will be on Györi Audi ETO KC and Team Esbjerg whose direct clash in Match of the Week will decide the last quarter-final participants. In group A, first and second is between CSM Bucuresti and Vipers Kristiansand, but the big question is which of SG BBM Bietigheim and Krim Mercator Ljubljana will progress to the play-offs.
Brest Bretagne Handball (FRA) vs Vipers Kristiansand (NOR)
Saturday 11 February, 18:00 CET, live on EHFTV
- the reigning champions are already through to the quarter-finals and will win the group if they cut the one-point gap separating them from CSM, as Vipers hold the tiebreaker in the event of a draw
- the French side are already through to the play-offs, but could end up anywhere between fourth and sixth places. They are currently fifth, with 12 points, two more than Bietigheim and one less than FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria
- Vipers have the second-best attack in the competition, scoring 420 goals, while Brest are 12th with 348 goals, an average of 5.5 goals per game less than their Norwegian counterparts
- with a win, Vipers will become only the 15th team in history to have clinched 50 wins in the European premium competition
- Vipers goalkeeper Katrine Lunde has the best average save rate in the competition, with 131 saves in 11 games –9 per match
SG BBM Bietigheim (GER) vs DHK Banik Most (CZE)
Sunday 12 February, 14:00 CET, live on EHFTV
- Bietigheim will earn a play-offs berth if they top the number of points secured by Krim or have a better goal difference but the same points as Krim; they are out of the competition if they and Krim both win and Brest lose to Vipers
- the German champions will seek to deliver their first win in nine matches and break their worst-ever winless run in their participation in the competition
- Most will set the longest losing run in the history of the EHF Champions League Women – 17 games – if they lose against Bietigheim, beating the record set by Krim between November 2014 and October 2016
- Most have conceded 531 goals (8 goals per game) this season, the largest number in the competition, 89 more than any other side
- in the reverse fixture, Bietigheim secured their largest-ever Champions League win, 46:23, coming only one goal shy of the record number of goals scored in a single game
- Most team captain Lucia Mikulcik: "Every single match is important, no matter how hard it's going to be. And this time it's no exception, even if it's our last Champions League match. We don't go to Germany for a trip, we want to be worthy opponents for Bietigheim."
Krim Mercator Ljubljana (SLO) vs CSM Bucuresti (ROU)
Sunday 12 February, 14:00 CET, live on EHFTV
- playing in their 298th game in the EHF Champions League Women, Krim will progress to the play-offs if they finish the group with more points than Bietigheim or if they end up in a three-way tie with Brest and Bietigheim, as they hold the tiebreaker
- CSM need to have one more point than Vipers to hold on to first place in the group
- the Romanian side are in the middle of their largest-ever unbeaten run in the EHF Champions League Women, seven games in a row. They beat their previous record in last week’s draw against Brest
- the season’s top scorer, Cristina Neagu, needs only one goal to hit the 100-goal milestone this season. The left back would score in triple digits for the third season in a row and for the fifth season in her career
- Neagu needs only eight goals to become the second top scorer in the history of the EHF Champions League Women, leapfrogging Anita Görbicz, who scored 1,016 goals in her career
- Krim right wing Jovanka Radičević: "They are the favorites to win the women's Champions League. We are aware that this is a match for us to be or not to be and I believe that we have the strength and that we will show that as a team we can achieve great results."
Odense Håndbold (DEN) vs FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN)
Sunday 12 February, 16:00 CET, live on EHFTV
- the Danish champions secured third place in the group, while FTC cannot fall lower than the fifth place. They are currently fourth, one point ahead of Brest
- FTC need to score only 12 goals to become the fourth team to reach the 6,000-goal milestone in the EHF Champions League Women, after Buducnost, Krim and Györ
- Odense have already won eight games this season – another victory will set a new record for the number of wins in a single season for the Danish side
- Odense coach Ulrik Kirkely: "I am very pleased with our third place in a very difficult group, where there have been seven strong teams that had to fight for the six positions in the further Champions League. We have showed that we have moved our international level and that we are more experienced and clinical in the game, which is crucial in these games."
- the Hungarian club’s away form has been patchy at best, losing four of the six games played on away courts, including the last three
- FTC’s top scorer, right back Katrin Klujber, is having the best season of her career in the competition with 85 goals. She is currently fourth in the top-scorer standings
MOTW: Györi Audi ETO KC (HUN) vs Team Esbjerg (DEN)
Saturday 11 February, 18:00 CET, live on EHFTV.com
- the match will decide the second quarter-final ticket from the group – both Györ and Esbjerg have 20 points ahead of the clash
- the Hungarian side can finish second, third or fourth depending on the result of this match and Rapid vs Zagreb; Esbjerg will finish third if they do not beat Györ
- Esbjerg are on a three-win streak while Györ got back on track against Kastamonu after losing the MOTW against Metz two weeks ago
- Györ's goalkeeper Silje Solberg is pregnant and will not play for the rest of the season, Amandine Leynaud is coming back from retirement to replace Solberg
- Henny Reistad is four goals behind Cristina Neagu on the top scorer list with 95 goals scored
- Esbjerg beat Ringkøbing Håndbold in their domestic league and hold second place; Györ had a 25-goal win against Moyra-Budaörs Handball
It will be a tough game, but this is the match which everyone loves to play. We play at home, and we want to show our best for our fans as well. Esbjerg will run for sure, they have a tough defence, but in my opinion our defence also improved a lot lately, so we need to be very physical with them.
It is going to be a wild match, a crazy one. We are playing for the chance to go straight to the quarter-finals at the hardest away arena in all of handball. Györ are always one of the favourites to win this tournament. So, it's going to be wild.
CS Rapid Bucuresti (ROU) vs HC Lokomotiva Zagreb
Sunday 12 February, 16:00 CET, live on EHFTV.com
- Lokomotiva enter the last game without a win this season, and will finish last in the group; debutants Rapid Bucuresti could finish as high as third ahead of the play-offs
- Rapid Bucuresti are the fourth most effective team in the competition with 414 goals scored, 31.8 goals per game on average; Lokomotiva are at 19.5 goals on average
- Lokomotiva lost the round 1 encounter by only four goals (27:31) – one of their best performances of the group phase alongside a draw with Kastamonu
- Bucuresti's Maria Sorina Grozav and Eliza Iulia Buceschi passed the 50-goal mark this season
- Zagreb coach Nenad Sostaric: "They play for a lot of goals, and our goal is to reduce that number. Rapid have probably the best crowd in the Champions League. They sing and wave big football flags for 60 minutes. I hope my players will enjoy it and be encouraged to play even better."
- Rapid snatched a 35:33 win over Gloria Buzău in Romania; Lokomotiva have a two-week break from the Croatian league
Storhamar Handball Elite (NOR) vs Metz Handball (FRA)
Sunday 12 February, 16:00 CET, live on EHFTV.com
- Metz secured their direct quarter-final spot and first place in the group with the round 13 win against Rapid; Storhamar booked sixth place and a ticket to the play-offs
- at the start of the season, Metz sealed a comfortable win against Storhamar, 31:22, with 13 players scoring at least once
- Metz's Bruna de Paula is currently the competition's fifth top scorer with 75 goals scored at 64 per cent efficiency; Storhamar’s Anniken Obaidli trails by only one goal
- Storhamar have the fifth-best defence in the group with 380 conceded goals, 29 per game
- Storhamar beat Volda in domestic competition 39:21 this week and are currently second behind Vipers; Metz had a whole week to prepare for this game as the French championship resumes on 15 February
We should show ourselves from our very best side; drop our shoulders and focus on the tasks we can expect in this match. It will of course be tough, but we will do everything we can to take the points from Metz.
WHC Buducnost BEMAX (MNE) vs Kastamonu Belediyesi GSK (TUR)
Originally scheduled for 16:00 CET on Saturday 11 February
- the match has been cancelled in the wake of Monday's earthquake in Türkiye, with Buducnost awarded a 10:0 win and the two points on offer
- the cancellation does not change the two sides' finishing positions; Buducnost progress in fifth place, while Kastamonu are seventh
Photos © nhcfoto.dk / Team Esbjerg, Odense Håndbold, Metz Handball