Four teams aim to extend flawless runs
The two surprise leaders of group B, Ikast Håndbold and Krim Mercator Ljubljana, go head-to-head this weekend as the EHF Champions League Women 2023/24 heads into round 4 of the group phase. In group A, SG BBM Bietigheim (against Brest Bretagne Handball) and Györi Audi ETO KC (against WHC Buducnost BEMAX) also try to protect their unbeaten status.
The MOTW on Saturday at 18:00 CEST features two teams that hope to rediscover their great form from last season: FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria and CS Rapid Bucuresti.
SG BBM Bietigheim (GER) vs Brest Bretagne Handball (FRA)
Saturday 30 September, 16:00 CEST, live on EHFTV
- Bietigheim are the surprise package of the competition so far, securing their second consecutive season with an opening winning streak of three matches
- only a single team – Zaglebie Lubin (63) – has scored less than Brest (73) so far, who have an average of 24.3 goals per match
- the German side has the largest shot efficiency: 65.9%, scoring 89 times from 135 shots, way higher than Brest’s 55.7%
- Bietigheim left back Xenia Smits is the second-best scorer of the season with 19 goals from 26 shots (73.1%)
- the German side has failed to win against Brest so far, with one draw and three defeats from their four previous duels
I played in France for four seasons and know that Brest are an opponent with a good quality. They have a very strong first line. Our coaches are working on tactics that should work against Brest. On the court, it depends on us players how we can implement these tactics in the game. I believe we will be fine.
- if Odense beat DVSC, they come close to matching their best start ever in the competition: in 2020/21, Odense won four of their first five matches
- Odense line player Maren Aardahl has been virtually unstoppable, scoring 18 goals this season and being on the third place in the goal scorer standings
- the Danish side has the joint best attack in the group so far, with 89 goals in the first three matches
- this will be the 10th match in the EHF Champions League for DVSC, who won two of the previous nine matches
- while DVSC will play their next league match in October, Odense extended their winning streak in the Danish league to five matches, with a 40:28 win over Viborg HK on Wednesday
I think it will be an exciting match. DVSC Schäffler are new in the EHF Champions League, and they will for sure bring a lot of spirit and energy into the game. But we must focus on us and continue the good shape we are in. We will do everything to get two points; in the EHF Champions League group phase, every point can be important.
- Sävehof are the only team in group A, and one of three teams in total, that are on zero points after three rounds
- CSM are coming off two defeats – against Bietigheim and Györ – and would match their worst series in the competition of three defeats with another loss Sunday
- CSM former team captain Carmen Martin, who had two stints at the Romanian side, now plays for Sävehof
- centre back Graace Zaadi is out injured at CSM, which scored only 77 goals in three matches so far
- Cristina Neagu’s third goal in the match will be her 1,050th in the EHF Champions League, a milestone previously reached only by Jovanka Radicevic
Györi Audi ETO KC (HUN) vs WHC Buducnost BEMAX (MNE)
Sunday 1 October, 16:00 CEST, live on EHFTV
- Györ (208 wins) and Buducnost (158 wins) are the teams with the largest number of wins in the history of the EHF Champions League Women
- the last time Buducnost lost the first four matches in an EHF Champions League group phase was in 2006/07 season – with one defeat coming against Györ
- only DVSC (100 conceded goals) and FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria (107 goals) have conceded more goals than Buducnost (96) so far
- Györ have won the last 12 matches between the two sides, with Buducnost’s last win coming in February 2016
- overall, Györ have won 20 of their 27 duels so far, Buducnost won only three times, and four matches ended in a draw
Buducnost is a good team with young players. It's always exciting to play against them because they have experienced handball players like Milena Raicevic, who is also the leader of the team. For us, the most important thing is to build on the experience of the last matches and build our own game with precision. There is a good atmosphere in the team, everyone is motivated for this match!
MOTW: FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN) vs CS Rapid Bucuresti (ROU)
Saturday 30 September, 18:00 CEST, live on EHFTV
- FTC have a tough start to the season with three straight defeats; Rapid have done hardly better with only a win, against Lubin
- Sorina Grozav leads the goal scorers list for Rapid with 14 goals; Katrin Klujber and Andrea Lekic have both netted 15 times for FTC
- left back Szandra Szöllosi-Zácsik will miss the MOTW for FTC following a knee injury she picked up last week
- Rapid lost their third match out of five played in the domestic league last Wednesday; FTC had no game in the Hungarian league
- this will be the first time these two sides meet
In the first three matches we did not perform as well as the fans expect from us, and we also expect from ourselves. We have to play much better in Saturday's game and get our first points in the Champions League. I think we can do this at home.
The match against FTC is a very important match for us after the match against Ikast. FTC have big experience in the Champions League, they played the last EHF FINAL4. So, we have to prepare very well our game, pay attention to their players, and trust in ourselves.
- both teams are coming off wins in round 3; Vipers are now on two wins in a row, while Esbjerg beat Metz to redeem themselves after a defeat against Krim
- Vipers’ Katrin Lunde is the competition’s second-best goalkeeper with 47 saves and a 43 save rate
- left back Kristine Breistøl leads Esbjerg’s attack with 17 goals
- the Scandinavian clash is only their fifth encounter in the top-tier; Vipers never won against Esbjerg, while their two 2020/21 duels both ended in a draw
- both clubs won in the domestic leagues: Esbjerg beat HH Elite by 18 goals; Vipers won a high-scoring game Tertnes, 38:36
We have two important training sessions before the game against Team Esbjerg on Saturday. We have to prepare in the right way, and we have to put in the necessary work to be ready for the game. In a sold-out Aquarama we have to get our heads up, and we have to be on our very best against a very tough opponent.
Vipers are the best team in the world right now, winning the Champions League three years running. We have had success against them the last time we met them, but it is going to be difficult. And they have so many great players, who can create things on their own.
- Lubin, the newcomers to the topflight, have scored the fewest goals of all group phase teams: 63, with Kinga Grzyb leading with 10 goals
- Lubin are on a three-game losing streak; Metz won twice but went down against Esbjerg last week
- Metz have the third-best attack of the competition with 100 goals scored, and the third-best goalkeeper: Hatadou Sako has 44 saves (37 per cent)
- both teams won in their national leagues this week: Metz against Chambray Touraine, Lubin against Energa AZS
- Lubin have never beaten Metz in six previous duels, but they got two draws when the teams met in the EHF Cup quarter-finals in 2001
Lubin is a very, very important match for Metz Handball at the start of the year, perhaps the most important match for two reasons. Firstly, because it's the one to come, of course, and we need to focus our energy on that. Secondly, because we're coming off a home defeat to Ikast, and we have no desire whatsoever to repeat that performance and come away from the game feeling as awful as we did after Ikast.
Ikast Håndbold (DEN) vs Krim Mercator Ljubljana (SLO)
Sunday 1 October, 16:00 CEST, live on EHFTV
- this is the duel between the only two unbeaten teams in group B
- those are the two most-scoring teams in the group so far: Ikast with 101 goals (64 per cent) and Krim also with 101 but from fewer attempts (66 er cent)
- Krim left wing Tamara Mavsar is the current EHF Champions League Women top scorer with a tally of 20
- Krim can get their 135th win in the competition’s history; only Buducnost and Györ have won more
- Ikast won three and Krim four matches from their previous eight duels
- Ikast head coach Kasper Christensen: "Krim play with great physicality defensively and have a very experienced team ... that know their skills and therefore always play with a small amount of mistakes"
- in their domestic league this week, Ikast won against Skanderborg, 33:30
photo Ikast © hamistolen.dk