Group matches start with 32 teams ready to go all in

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EHF / Kevin Domas

Some six weeks after a qualification round confirmed the last five participants, the EHF European League Men 2023/24 group matches are ready for throw-off. Divided over eight groups, a total of 32 teams start their journey on Tuesday night.

The list of 16 matches includes various clashes between teams regarded as potential title contenders. Defending champions Füchse Berlin host Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc Handball in their first game; 2022 winners Sport Lisboa e Benfica have a tough away match against HBC Nantes; and last season’s quarter-finalists SG Flensburg-Handewitt and Kadetten Schaffhausen are set to meet.


Top 5 matches

Group A: HBC Nantes (FRA) vs Sport Lisboa e Benfica (POR)
Tuesday 17 October, 20:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • the two clubs played four times against each other in European competitions: Benfica won twice, Nantes once, and one match ended in a draw
  • the teams also met in the EHF European League group phase two seasons ago
  • Nantes’ Portuguese left back Alexandre Cavalcanti played for Benfica from 2013 to 2019 before moving to France
  • Benfica won the European League in 2022; Nantes have not won any European trophy yet but played the finals of the EHF Cup (in 2013 and 2016) and the EHF Champions League (2018)
20231016 ELM R1 Preview Nantes Quote
European cup is always a different atmosphere, a different excitement, too. There is always a big motivation for the players and spectators to face foreign teams. I think we are in the biggest group. We know that all the matches will be very competitive and that qualification will really not be easy.
Greg Cojean
HBC Nantes head coach
They are a good team, they are very strong at home and it will be a great challenge for us. We want to compete with the big teams, and they are one of those big teams right now. We are growing as a team and it is important to play against great opponents, let’s see how we can respond in this first round of the EHF European League
Mike Jensen
Goalkeeper, SL Benfica

Group C: RK Gorenje Velenje (SLO) vs Pfadi Winterthur (SUI)
Tuesday 17 October, 18:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • Velenje were seeded for the group matches, but Winterthur had to come through qualification and only just managed to do so: 44:43 non aggregate against Águas Santas
  • Velenje and Winterthur met twice in the EHF Cup in 2015, when the Slovenian side won both contests: 35:26 and 30:26
  • Velenje reached the final of the EHF Cup in 2009 for what remains their best European result so far
  • Winterthur’s best result in European competitions dates back to 2001 and a Challenge Cup final, which they lost against Jugovic Kac
  • Velenje right wing Ibrahim Haseljić: "This is a special experience for us. Two years ago, we reached the quarter-finals and proved that we are a team that fights until the last second. This season, the Europa League consists of very high-quality teams that could also play in the Champions League. This is an additional motivation for us, as we want to prove that we can also compete with the best European clubs."

Group D: RK Nexe (CRO) vs Skjern Håndbold (DEN)
Tuesday 17 October, 20:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • the clubs also met in the EHF European League last season, when Nexe won twice by a single goal: 30:29 in Denmark and 29:28 in Croatia
  • both teams were eliminated by German opponents last season: Nexe in the quarter-final by Göppingen; Skjern by eventual champions Füchse in the Last 16
  • Nexe have signed two EHF Champions League winners: Marko Bezjak (Magdeburg, won title in 2023) and Manuel Strlek (Veszprém, won title with Kielce in 2016)
  • Skjern won the Challenge Cup twice, in 2002 and 2003, and played at the EHF Cup Finals in 2014/15
20231016 ELM R1 Preview Nexe Quote
We have a match against Skjern, one of the favourites of our group, a team that we know well and respect very much. It is a classic Scandinavian team that plays very fast, collective handball. They have an extremely fast transition, counter, half-counter and fast centre. So, for this match we will have to raise ourselves in all phases of the game to an even higher level throughout the entire 60 minutes.
Branko Tamše
Head coach, RK Nexe

Group E: SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) vs Kadetten Schaffhausen (SUI)
Tuesday 17 October, 20:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • Flensburg and Schaffhausen played four times against each other, but not since the EHF Champions League 2016/17
  • Flensburg won three of those previous duels, Schaffhausen one
  • Last season, Flensburg’s Simon Pytlick was top scorer of the EHF Champions League (107 goals for GOG) and Schaffhausen’s Odinn Thor Rikhardsson was top scorer of the EHF European League (110 goals)
  • both clubs changed their head coach last summer: Nicolej Krickau moved from GOG to Flensburg; Hrvoje Horvat arrived at Schaffhausen from German side Wetzlar

Group F: Bjerringbro-Silkeborg (DEN) vs BM Logroño La Rioja (ESP)
Tuesday 17 October, 18:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • the teams have not met each other before in a European club competition
  • Silkeborg failed to make it to the group phase last season, losing to Sporting 61:55 on aggregate in the last qualification round
  • Logroño even went out in an earlier qualification round, losing 67:62 on aggregate to Lemgo
  • one Silkeborg player has won the EHF Champions League in the past: goalkeeper Johan Sjöstrand, with Barça in 2011; two others played the final in 2014: Rene Toft Hansen and Rasmus Lauge Schmidt

Also watch out for…

  • the reigning champions, Füchse Berlin, start their European season on home court against French side Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc Handball
  • Slovakian legend Lubomir Duriš came back to his hometown club Povaszka Bistrica in 2022 and will play his first European match in 10 years, against Braga
  • Braga’s 45-year-old goalkeeper Humberto Gomes enters his 13th European season, having had his debut also with Braga back in 1997/98
  • Vojvodina right back Milan Milic spent two years in Nantes learning from Macedonian great Kiril Lazarov, who currently is the head coach of Vojvodina’s first opponents: HC Alkaloid
  • Kriens-Luzern’s Andre Schmid has recovered from a calf injury and should be ready for the Swiss team’s first group match, against TSV Hannover-Burgdorf
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina has a representative in group matches of EHF Cup or EHF European League for the first time since 2012: HC Izvidac; they open with an away match at Dinamo Bucuresti


photo © 2023 Jan Guenther / TSV Hannover-Burgdorf

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