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11 days ago - 2/9/2018

Clash of the EHF EURO heroes in Barcelona

Vardar (in the Match of the Week at Barcelona) and Paris Saint-Germain (at Celje) can make huge steps towards winning their groups in their first VELUX EHF Champions League matches of 2018.

While Plock and Zagreb fight for their last chance to jump on the Last 16 train, two former champions clash at Flensburg.

  • Vardar Skopje hope for their first ever victory on Spanish ground.
  • Seven European champions face in Barcelona.
  • Three EHF EURO 2018 All Stars duel in Flensburg.

GROUP A

Orlen Wisla Plock (POL) vs HC PPD Zagreb (CRO)
Saturday 10 February, 16:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

Both sides have only one victory each and a total of four points after ten matches on their account, tied in the first leg - thus it is the do-or-die for Plock and Zagreb already. The Croats still face both potential rivals for the sixth spot and the Last 16 ticket, but have to cope with the loss of two key players: Goalkeeper Matevs Skok left to Sporting CP, while Stipe Mandalinic signed for Füchse Berlin in January.

Plock still wait for their first home victory in this season, as they only won at Szeged and tied at Zagreb, while the so far only home point was a 25:25 against Kristianstad. Plock are still hunting for their first victory against Zagreb after three defeats and two draws. On the other hand, the Croatian record champions have failed to claim an away point so far this season.

FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP) vs HC Vardar (MKD) - Match of the Week
Saturday 10 February, 18:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

A homecoming for Arpad Sterbik, one of seven EHF EURO champions on court, a re-match of last season’s semi-final, the visit of the defending champions to the record winners. The ehfTV.com Match of the Week has it all.

Two weeks after the EHF EURO 2018 final, won by Spain against Sweden, seven European champions will meet in Palau Blaugrana: Gonzalo Perez de Vargas, Viran Morros, Valero Rivera, Raul Entrerrios and Aitor Arino on Barcelona’s side, Arpad Sterbik and Joan Canellas for Vardar.

It is also a duel between two successful Spanish coaches – and perhaps the final visit of Raul Gonzalez to Barcelona on the Vardar bench, before he joins PSG next season.

The defending champions are the only unbeaten team in the competition and can make a huge step towards winning the group, as Vardar are already six points ahead of the Catalans, who will have to replace Jure Dolenec, Timothy N’Guessan and Victor Tomas due to injuries.

Vardar have never won a match in any European club competition on Spanish ground, while Barcelona eagerly hope for revenge for the 24:27 defeat in the reverse fixture earlier this season.

Elsewhere in Group A:

IFK Kristianstad (SWE) vs HBC Nantes (FRA)
Saturday 10 February, 17:30 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER) vs MOL-Pick Szeged (HUN)
Sunday 11 February, 17:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

GROUP B

RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko (SLO) vs Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA)
Sunday 11 February, 17:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

On his farewell tour, PSG coach Noka Serdarusic returns to his former club. Paris are the huge favourites in this match after nine victories in ten matches so far. Having three EHF EURO All-stars and the full set of EURO medals in their squad, the options and alternatives are much wider than the young Celje side can count on.

But the Slovenian record champions have proven their ability by beating Kielce on home ground and by winning at Kiel. After Aalborg took a point at Brest on Wednesday, Celje are with their backs against the wall in the race for the Last 16 tickets, three points below sixth position and level with the Danes.

On the other hand, Paris are four points ahead of Flensburg and five ahead of Kiel and Veszprém, with a game in hand after THW beat the Hungarian side on Wednesday. If PSG win and Flensburg lose against Kielce, the French champions are all but certain of first place

PSG won the first clash between the sides 32:27 and were only beaten at Flensburg so far this season, but two seasons ago, PSG had a real battle on their hands before taking both points in the Zlatorog Arena with a 32:30 win.

SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) vs PGE Vive Kielce (POL)
Sunday 11 February, 19:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com

The 2014 VELUX EHF Champions League winners face the 2016 title holders - and both sides need the points. Not only can Flensburg take revenge for the extremely close 2016 quarter-final elimination, but can remain PSG’s only hunter, while Kielce can feel Brest, Aalborg and Celje breathing down their necks. Another defeat could put enormous pressure on Talant Dujshebaev’s men.

Three EHF EURO 2018 All-stars will duel on Sunday - MVP Jim Gottfridsson (Flensburg) vs Alex Dujshebaev (right back) and Manuel Strlek (left wing, both Kielce). Besides Gottfridsson, two more Swedish silver medallists are on court for SG - Simon Jeppson and Hampus Wanne.

The first leg of the two European powerhouses at Poland ended in a 25:25 draw. While Kielce only have one away victory (at Aalborg) have on their account so far, Flensburg won four of five home matches, including the only defeat PSG suffered so far. 

Author: Björn Pazen / cor