First round draw offers several great rivalries
Already the first draw event in the EHF European League Men produced several great fixtures as 30 teams in the first qualification round of the 2020/21 season learned their opponents.
Markus Glaser, EHF Chief Sports Officer together with Peter Sichelschmidt, EHF National Teams Senior Manager conducted the draw which pitted against each other Bjerringbro-Silkeborg and MT Melsungen, two rivals from the last season’s EHF Cup group phase, SKA Minsk and HC CSKA from Moscow as two legendary army clubs from the former Soviet Union and the former EHF Champions League winners Bidasoa Irun with the ambitious French club PAUC Handball.
"We played against Bjerringbro-Silkeborg last year in the EHF Cup group phase and we would have been eliminated on aggregate if this was a knockout round," Montenegrin goalkeeper of MT Melsungen Nebojsa Simic has told in an interview for the @ehfel_official Instagram account.
"I will be really happy to see my former teammate Johan Sjöstrand, who joined BSV this summer," Simic says. "He will be really motivated to play his best against us, which will not be good for us."
Recent EHF Champions League regulars IFK Kristianstad have been handed a tough draw as the Swedish side face a Scandinavian derby against OIF Arendal of Norway. This is what Valter Chrintz has told in an interview for the @ehfel_official Instagram account: "I have been in Arendal before with the national team, I like the city. It is a good team so it will be a tough game," says the right wing of IFK. "We go there to win," Chrintz adds.
João Pais, left wing of Benfica, who have been drawn against Fivers of Austria commented on the draw: "EHF European League is a new competition with stronger clubs since the first round and it was a favorable draw for us. We immediately avoided PAUC Handball, which in my opinion was the strongest team in pot 2, and we can start the official competitions in this new season at home."
The first leg will be played on 29/30 August followed by the second leg one week later.
A total of 15 teams will advance to qualification round 2 in September, when nine more teams are set to enter the competition.
As a result, 12 teams will qualify for the group phase starting in October 2020, where they will join 12 more teams that have been directly seeded through to the group phase.
For the first time at this draw the EHF formed three geographical zones and created two pots in each of them in order to reduce any possible travel restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.