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EHF Champions League

Starting shot for race to Cologne

Kevin Domas / Björn Pazen

The curtain rises again: On Wednesday, the EHF Champions League Men starts into its 2020/21 season with simultaneous matches in Brest, Belarus, and Celje, Slovenia.

With a new playing system and fixed playing times - always on Wednesday and Thursday at 18:45 and 20:45 CE(S)T - 14 of the top 16 elite teams in men’s club handball begin their journey to the EHF FINAL4 2021 in Cologne this week.

Two teams will have a delayed start into the season, as the high-profile game in group A between MOL-Pick Szeged and Paris-Saint Germain Handball has been postponed until further notice due to a positive Covid-19 test in the Hungarian team.

Two of the last three champions meet in group A, where Vardar and Kielce feature among the favourites for the top spots.

Over in group B, three of the four participants in the VELUX EHF FINAL4 2020 will clash: Veszprém, Kiel and Barça.

A lot of attention will go to several big summer signings, most notably Sander Sagosen who moved from PSG to Kiel, and will feature in the first Match of the Week of the 2020/21 season as the German side are heading to Croatia to take on Zagreb on Thursday.

HC Meshkov Brest (BLR) vs HC Vardar 1961 (MKD)
Wednesday 16 September, 18:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • Varder lead Brest 3:2 in their CL head-to-head, while they drew once
  • last season they both won their home match against the other team: Vardar 36:31 and Brest 31:22
  • Slovenian playmaker Stas Skube moved from Skopje to Brest in the summer of 2020
  • Vardar lost the SEHA League final two weeks ago, 35:27 against Veszprém
  • Meshkov scored 42 or more goals in each of their first three domestic league matches

SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) vs Lomza Vive Kielce (POL)
Wednesday 16 September, 20:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • Kielce are starting their 12th straight CL campaign, Flensburg their ninth
  • three of their four previous matches in the CL ended in a draw, while Kielce won the other match only by a single goal - 29:28 in the 2016 quarter-final
  • Flensburg just signed Slovenian line player Domen Sikosek Pelko until the end of 2020 to make up for injuries
  • Kielce won their first two games in the Polish league

FC Porto (POR) vs Elverum Handball (NOR)
Thursday 17 September, 20:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • Porto were one of the surprise packages in groups A/B last season, with wins over Kielce and Kiel
  • Elverum lost several important players in the off-season, including Lukas Sandell, Sebastian Henneberg and Sigvaldi Gudjonsson, but managed to sign Luc Abalo from PSG
  • the two clubs have not met before in the CL
  • Porto started their domestic league with a win against Braga (36:18), Elverum have won the first four games in the Norwegian league

RK Celje Pivovarna Laško (SLO) vs Aalborg Håndbold (DEN)
Wednesday 16 September, 18:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • in four CL duels against Aalborg, Celje only took one victory - at home in the 2017/18 group phase
  • Celje once again lost a top talent, as Domen Makuc joined Barça
  • Aalborg play in the CL for the sixth time while Celje appear in their 26th season, one short of Zagreb’s record
  • after some surprising results last CL season, four Aalborg players were signed by German Bundesliga clubs
  • neither team dropped points in the domestic league so far this season: Aalborg have the maximum six points in Denmark, Celje won twice in Slovenia

HBC Nantes (FRA) vs Telekom Veszprém HC (HUN)
Wednesday 16 September, 20:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • both sides were CL finalists (Nantes in 2018; Veszprém in 2002, 2015, 2016 and 2019) but failed to win the trophy
  • Nantes’ top star Kiril Lazarov, who has announced his retirement for 2021, was a CL top scorer for Veszprém
  • Nantes lost local hero Nicolas Tournat to Kielce but signed Spanish EHF EURO champion Adria Figueras from Granollers
  • Veszprém start their 26th CL season with a fromer Nantes player: Spanish world and EHF EURO champion Jorge Maqueda joined from Szeged
  • Veszprém won the SEHA League two weeks ago, beating Vardar 35:27 in the final

HC Motor (UKR) vs Barça (ESP)
Thursday 17 September, 18:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • both teams never met before in any European club competition
  • record CL winners Barça are waiting for another title for five years now, while Motor play their eighth consecutive CL season but never reached the quarter-final
  • new Motor coach Gintaras Savukynas is integrating eight new arrivals in his squad
  • the last time Motor won their group phase opener was in 2017 (36:23 against Chekhovskie Medvedi)
  • Barça lost their CL season-opener at Szeged last year but went on to win all 13 remaining group phase matches

MOTW: HC PPD Zagreb (CRO) vs THW Kiel (GER)
Thursday 17 September, 18:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • this is the first Match of the Week of the new season
  • the match marks the CL debut for new Zagreb coach Igor Vori
  • both teams met twice in the CL semi-final and once in the quarter-final, each time Kiel came out on top
  • Kiel have a slight advantage in the head-to-head with six wins against Zagreb’s five; they also had three draws in their 14 matches
  • THW captain Domagoj Duvnjak faces the club he played for before moving to Germany (first Hamburg, then Kiel) in 2009
  • Zagreb lost captain and club icon Zlatko Horvat, who joined Metalurg, after more than 20 years

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