16 teams dare to rise in the EHF Champions League Women
The EHF Champions League Women returns with a bang, as the top 16 clubs in Europe face off, with the battle for a place at the EHF FINAL4 in Budapest starting right now.
There are returning teams, there are powerhouses who aim to dethrone Vipers Kristiansand and there are also new names, ready to make their stand. With eight games scheduled throughout Europe on Saturday and Sunday, there will be no shortage of drama and exciting matchups, including a Scandinavian Match of the Week, when Vipers face Ikast Handbold.
CSM Bucuresti (ROU) vs Odense Håndbold (DEN)
Saturday, 9 September, 18:00 CEST, live on EHFTV
- the Romanian champions have started the season with four wins in domestic competitions, winning the Super Cup with a nine-goal win, 31:22, against rivals Rapid Bucuresti
- Ole Gustav Gjekstad, who won the last three editions of the EHF Champions League Women with Vipers Kristiansand, will make his debut at Odense, replacing Ulrik Kirkely, who left for Györ
- Odense need only one more win to reach the 30-win mark in the premier European competition, and will be the 23rd team in history to secure this achievement
- CSM will miss centre back Elizabeth Omoregie and right wing Mihaela Mihai, due to injuries, in the start of the new season in the EHF Champions League Women
- the two sides have met twice in history in the top European competition, in the previous season, with CSM taking a four-goal win in Denmark and a nine-goal win at home
I believe it will be a tough game! The team of Odense is stronger than last year, so it will be a big fight on Saturday night. We will need to be strong both individually and as a team.
But I’m really excited that the Champions League starts again! We are looking forward to it!
DVSC Schaeffler (HUN) vs IK Sävehof (SWE)
Saturday, 9 September, 18:00 CEST, live on EHFTV
- DVSC are making their comeback in the EHF Champions League, playing for the first time since the 2010/11 season, when they won a single game out of the six they played
- Sävehof have won 16 out of the 92 matches they have played in history in the competition, as they return after a one-year hiatus to the EHF Champions League for their 12th season
- the Swedish champions stayed true to their roots and have the lowest average age of the 16 teams this season, with their players averaging only 21 years of age
- Sävehof have never won a game in European competitions against Hungarian opposition, conceding losses in all 12 matches they have played against Györ, FTC or Siofok KC
- in their last four participations in the premier European competition, Sävehof have qualified from the group phase only once, in the 2019/20 season
The Champions League is a big adventure for us, but we want to make our mark. Our goal is to advance, but it is not an expectation from the team. I think we can grab the sixth place and one of our big rivals will be Sävehof in this competition. In order to achieve our goal we must collect a lot of points at home, which is why the first match will be very important.
This type of experience, competing against the best in the world, will be very valuable for us. We are looking forward to playing this first match of the EHF Champions League season, also since we are going to meet our former teammate Tamara (Haggerty) again.
WHC Buducnost BEMAX (MNE) vs SG BBM Bietigheim
Sunday, 10 September, 14:00 CEST, live on EHFTV
- Buducnost are starting their 28th season in the EHF Champions League Women, boasting the largest number of matches played so far, 306, and the second largest number of wins, 158
- Bietigheim have started their season with a trophy, taking a 34:23 win over HSG Bensheim/Auerbach in the German Super Cup, sealing back-to-back wins in the German league, the German Cup and Super Cup
- Jakob Vestergaard will make his debut in the competition for Bietigheim, after taking over from Markus Gaugisch this summer
- Vestergaard was Viborg HK’s coach when the current Buducnost coach, Bojana Popovic, starred for the Danish team, winning back-to-back editions of the EHF Champions League Women, in 2009 and 2010
- the two sides have met four times in the top European competition, in 2017 and 2019, with Bietigheim winning only one of the four matches
We want to get off to a good start in the EHF Champions League, but we also know that we have a difficult task ahead of us against Buducnost. After the good national start, we travel to Podgorica with a lot of self-confidence and want to go home with two points.
Bietigheim run a lot, and we have to concentrate in attack and play a good game. The first game of the season is always difficult, especially for us, because we didn't have many preparation matches. They are the favorites because they have been together for three years; they have more players in the rotation, but on the court we will show that we can play against them.
Brest Bretagne Handball (FRA) vs Györi Audi ETO KC (HUN)
Sunday, 10 September, 16:00 CEST, live on EHFTV
- if Györ score 18 goals in the game, they will be the second team in the history of the EHF Champions League Women to hit the 8000-goal mark, after WHC Buducnost BEMAX
- Györ’s coach, Ulrik Kirkely, will make his European debut for the Hungarian side, after replacing Ambros Martin this summer
- coming into their EHF Champions League Women campaign, Györ conceded a sensational loss in the domestic league against Motherson Mosonmagyarovari KC on Wednesday, 30:33
- Brest Bretagne Handball are one of the few teams in the European top competition to have a balanced head-to-head record against Györ, with four losses, four draws and one win
- Györ’s largest win in history at Brest was a three-goal win, with the last two matches between the two sides finishing in draws
First match is always interesting in all parts. We know it is always difficult to play in Brest. As usual the physical conditions will be important, because I expect a physical match. For sure we need control the speed for that it would be a top match.
MOTW: Ikast Handbold (DEN) vs Vipers Kristiansand (NOR)
Saturday 09 September, 16:00 CEST, live on EHFTV with ENG commentary
- the reigning EHF Champions League champions are heading into the new season with a new head coach; Ole Gustav Gjekstad left the club after five years, his assistant coach Tomás Hlavatý and goalkeeper coach Lene Rantala took over the team
- the 2022/23 EHF Champions League's second-best scorer Markéta Jeřábková will face her former teammates from Vipers
- after five years of second-tier competition, Ikast is back in the Champions League as an EHF European League Women winner and on an 11-match winning streak
- Ikast's head coach Kasper Christensen enters his fourth season with the club
- the Danish side had a good warm-up for the clash in the domestic league, winning against HH Elite and Sønderjyske; Vipers are unbeaten in the domestic championship after three straight wins against Byaasen, Aker Topphandball and Gjerpen Skien, respectively
- the two Nordic teams have never met before in European competitions
Vipers are an absolute world class team and the have some of the best handball players in women´s handball: Katrine Lunde and Anna Vyakhireva.
Meeting the three-time EHF Champions League winners at home in round one of this season's Champions League is a dream for us.
We’re working every day towards the same goals. We want to get a little bit better by every game, and I’m certain that we’ll be better against Ikast than we were last game. We have had a good couple of days of training, and the girls are looking ready for the task at hand.
MKS Zaglebie Lubin (POL) vs Krim Mercator Ljubljana (SLO)
Saturday 09 September, 18:00 CEST, live on EHFTV
- the Polish champions are starting their first-ever EHF Champions League campaign after previously failing to qualify back in the 2011/12 season
- Zaglebie Lubin are mostly relying on domestic players with two Slovak players and one representative each from Brazil and Serbia
- Lubin's head coach Bożena Karkut has been at the helm since 2000
- this is the 29th EHF Champions League season for the Slovenian side, making them the record-holders
- three important signings for Krim this summer were Itana Grbić, Tatjana Brnović and the return of Tamara Mavsar
- the two sides have never met in European competitions
FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN) vs Metz Handball (FRA)
Saturday 09 September, 16:00 CEST, live on EHFTV
- the French side enters their 25th EHF Champions League season as the second-youngest squad and with four strong signings Alina Grijseels, Anne Mette Hansen, Lucie Granier and Djazz Chambertin
- last season, Metz was stopped in the quarter-finals, failing to qualify for their third EHF FINAL4
- the Hungarian league runners-up enter a new era with Martin Albertsen at the helm; former head coach Gábor Elek said goodbye to the club after 16 years
- FTC will miss Anikó Cirjenics-Kovacsics who had to undergo shoulder surgery again; Béatrice Edwige returns to the court after nine months
- FTC passed the 40-goal mark in the Hungarian league, beating both Bekescabai and DKKA ahead of the European season's start; Metz were equally successful, celebrating against Paris 92, HBCSA and Merignac Handball
- this will be the 21st encounter between the two clubs; FTC lead with 10 wins to six, while twice there was no winner
Team Esbjerg (DEN) vs CS Rapid Bucuresti (ROU)
Sunday 10 September, 16:00 CEST, live on EHFTV
- Team Esbjerg have kept almost the same structure over the summer, welcoming only Rikke Iversen; they are one of three Danish representatives in Europe's top-flight this season
- Danish head coach Jesper Jensen is heading into his seventh and last year in the hotseat
- after defeat in the Super Cup against Odense (25:30), Esbjerg took a win against Nykøbing Falster in the first round of the Danish championship
- the Romanian club also had minor changes in the squad - Laura Kanor, Lara González and Mathilde Neesgaard joined
- this is only Rapid Bucuresti's second season in the EHF Champions League
- ahead of the Champions League's start, Rapid lost a domestic game against Corona Brașov (25:29) and won against Minaur Baia Mare (29:22)
- they have met only twice so far; in the 2022/23 season with each side getting their hands on one win
This group we are in is extremely hard. We need to be at our best for every single match. The first game is in Esbjerg, they have been in the EHF FINAL4 in the last two years and at home they are really, really strong. So, it's a tough test but we know that if we play up to our best we have a chance to put pressure on them and this is what we go there for.
It is difficult to know what the deciding thing for this match will be. I guess we will have to wait and see. Of course, getting a home win against Rapid who I think we be one of the challengers in this group would be great. But at the start of the season, I think the winner of the match is going to be the team, who can adjust to play in the Champions League again.