Scintillating start to open the EHF European League Men
After a long wait during the off-season, 20 teams representing 15 different countries will compete in 10 interesting clashes in the first leg of the EHF European League Men qualification round 1 this weekend.
Rising powerhouses like Kolstad Handball or teams that regularly feature in the European competitions – like TBV Lemgo-Lippe, IFK Kristianstad and IK Sävehof – will take to the court, as a place in qualification round 2 awaits the winners of the two-legged ties.
- rising powerhouse club Kolstad Handball, who signed goalkeeper Torbjørn Bergerud and line player Magnus Gullerud, will make their debut in a European club competition in a Norwegian clash against Drammen HK, semi-finalists in last season's EHF European Cup Men
- the most balanced clash seems to be the one between German side TBV Lemgo-Lippe and Spanish team BM Logroño La Rioja. Both sides featured in the group phase last season
- North Macedonian side HC Eurofarm Pelister 2 will make their debut in a European competition against Austrian outfit Alpla HC Hard. Eurofarm Pelister 2 boast the youngest average age in the competition, with an average 20.3 years, with none of their 18 players being older than 29
- four teams that participated in the EHF European League group phase last season – TBV Lemgo-Lippe, Logroño La Rioja, Finnish outfit HC Cocks and Swedish team Sävehof – feature in qualification round 1
- Romania is the only country with three teams in this round: HC Dobrogea Sud Constanta, CS Minaur Baia Mare and AHC Potaissa Turda
- 14 teams are already waiting in qualification round 2. Powerhouses like SG Flensburg-Handewitt, RK Nexe, Bidasoa Irun and Montpellier HB will find out their opponents in the draw that will take place on 6 September, two days after qualification round 1 concludes
New season, new teams, same ambitions
Last season, SL Benfica eliminated HC Kriens Luzern (60:42 on aggregate) in qualification round 1 and Rhein-Neckar Löwen (64:59 on aggregate) in qualification round 2 to progress to the EHF European League Men group phase. After 20 games, the fairy tale ended on a high for the Portuguese side when they won the title.
Whether a team will repeat their feat or not is still to be seen, but the group phase is still far away, with the 20 teams entering the fray in qualification round 1 having four games to play to reach that moment.
There are sides from emerging nations, teams that have already achieved domestic or international glory, or sides just moulding their players into future stars, but the ambitions are the same – progress to the next phase, where even tougher opponents await.
12 teams, including reigning champions SL Benfica, German powerhouse Füchse Berlin and Danish team Skjern Handbold, have already qualified for the group phase and will find out their opponents after qualification round 2 has concluded.
Full schedule (all times CEST)
Saturday 27 August
HC Cocks (FIN) vs Aguas Santas Milaneza (POR) (15:00)
TBV Lemgo-Lippe (GER) vs BM Logroño La Rioja (ESP) (15:00)
Gornik Zabrze (POL) vs GC Amicitia Zürich (SUI) (16:00)
CS Minaur Baia Mare (ROU) vs FTC (HUN) (17:00)
Kolstad Handball (NOR) vs Drammen HK (NOR) (18:00)
IFK Kristianstad (SWE) vs RK Trimo Trebnje (SLO) (18:30)
Alpla HC Hard (AUT) vs HC Eurofarm Pelister 2 (MKD) (19:00)
Chambery Savoie Mont Blanc HB (FRA) vs HC Dobrogea Sud Constanta (ROU) (20:00)
Sunday 28 August
Rebi Balonmano Cuenca (ESP) vs Bjerringbro-Silkeborg (DEN) (12:30)
IK Sävehof (SWE) vs AHC Potaissa Turda (ROU) (17:30)