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EHF Champions League

Drama awaits as EHF Champions League Men begins

Kevin Domas / Björn Pazen / cg

The curtain on the EHF Champions League Men 2021/22 will be lifted in Montpellier, Elverum and Brest on Wednesday, when the first matches in Europe’s top-flight competition throw off — and round 1 is sure to open the season with plenty of drama.

In group A, four-time champions THW Kiel will be tested against Belarus, while 2021 finalists Aalborg travel to the reinforced side of RK Zagreb.

In group B, Paris visit Veszprém in a rematch of the EHF FINAL4 2020 three/four placement game, as Flensburg host title holders Barça — who did not drop a single point in the Champions League last season — in the first Match of the Week of the season.

Montpellier HB (FRA) vs Pick Szeged (HUN)
Wednesday 15 September, 18:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • after a one-year absence, 2020/21 French league runners-up Montpellier are back in the EHF Champions League
  • Montpellier won the Champions League twice, in 2003 and 2018, while Szeged still aim for their first participation at the EHF FINAL4 at Cologne
  • in 2014, Szeged won the EHF Cup Finals in Berlin by beating Montpellier, becoming the only non-German EHF Cup winner since 2003
  • Kent-Robin Tönnesen (from Veszprém) and Miguel Martins (from Porto) are Pick’s most important new signings, while Joan Canellas (to Schaffhausen) and Jonas Källman (to Benfica) left the club
  • Montpellier lost two of their 2018 winners: Melvyn Richardson (to Barcelona) and Jonas Truchanovicius (to Zaporozhye)
  • the last time these sides duelled in the EHF Champions League was in the 2014/15 group phase, when Pick won their home match and the teams drew in Montpellier
  • in the French league, Montpellier tied 29:29 against Saint Raphael last weekend, while Szeged beat NEKA to be on top of the Hungarian league table with three wins from three matches

Elverum Handball (NOR) vs HC Vardar 1961 (MKD)
Wednesday 15 September, 18:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • Elverum have lost their prolific wing players Luc Abalo (end of career after winning his third Olympic gold medal) and Alexander Blonz (to their group phase opponents Szeged)
  • Vardar had a full transition, with 13 players coming and 11 departing. The biggest name among Vardar’s new arrivals is Spanish EHF EURO champion and Olympic bronze medallist Eduardo Gurbindo
  • both sides suffered clear play-off defeats last season: Vardar were eliminated with an aggregate goal difference of -23 against Veszprém, while Elverum lost by an aggregate of -32 goals against title winners Barcelona
  • it will be the Champions League comeback for new Vardar coach Veselin Vujovic. His last stint in the top-flight competition was with Zagreb in the 2019/20 season
  • the 2020/21 group matches saw the only previous mutual duels: Vardar won 35:32 and drew 34:34 with both matches played in Skopje

HC Meshkov Brest (BLR) vs THW Kiel (GER)
Wednesday 15 September, 18:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • it is the first EHF Champions League match for Daniel Gordo as new Meshkov coach. His predecessor Raul Alonso was assistant coach of Kiel at the start of his career
  • Kiel’s Czech defence specialist Pavel Horak played for Meshkov from 2017 to 2019
  • in the previous season, both sides were eliminated in the quarter-finals: Meshkov in their quarter-final debut against Barcelona; Kiel by Paris
  • Kiel started the German Bundesliga victorious, with wins against Balingen and Melsungen. Meshkov lost both matches on the final weekend of the SEHA League, against Zagreb and Zaporozhye, to finish fourth
  • Brest won their last home match against THW — 33:30 in the 2019/20 season — but THW struck back with a 31:23 victory in the return leg
  • while Kiel did not have any significant changes in their squad, four players left Brest and three new —headlined by Czech Stanislav Kasparek — arrived

HC PPD Zagreb (CRO) vs Aalborg Håndbold (DEN)
Wednesday 15 September, 20:45 CEST, live on EHFTV

  • Aalborg will have to replace their top transfer Aron Palmarsson due to an injury. Jesper Nielsen and Kristian Björnsen will be able to play the opener of the international season
  • Zagreb bolstered their squad with some homecoming stars such as Ivan Cupic, Filip Ivic, Jakov Gojun and Zeljko Musa in an effort to forget their 2020/21 season, where they earned no points
  • Aalborg won their last match of the Danish league 33:26 at Nordsjelland after losing their opener against Sonderjyske
  • Zagreb qualified for the finals of the SEHA League only because Vardar were not eligible to play due to a Covid-19 case. After beating Meshkov in the semi they lost the final against Veszprém on a penalty shootout
  • while Aalborg made it to the final on their very first appearance at the EHF FINAL4 in Cologne, Zagreb did not contest the play-offs against Flensburg due to Covid-19
  • in the previous season, Zagreb lost to Aalborg 26:27 at home and 29:38 away

C.S. Dinamo Bucuresti (ROU) vs Lomza Vive Kielce (POL)
Thursday 16 September, 18:45 CET, live on EHFTV

  • this is the first time the two clubs will play against each other in official European competitions
  • last season, Kielce made it to the Champions League play-offs, where they were eliminated by Nantes, while Dinamo Bucuresti played the EHF European League, reaching the group phase
  • Bucharest won their first three Romanian league games this season while Kielce took the points in their first two games in the Polish league
  • this will be the first game with their new clubs for two French national players: Cedric Sorhaindo (Bucharest) and Dylan Nahi (Kielce). It will also be the first Champions League match for long-time Barça coach Xavi Pascual, now at the helm of Bucharest
  • seven former Champions League winners will be on the court on Thursday: five for Bucharest (Khalifa Ghedbane, Christian Dissinger, Alex Pascual, Cedric Sorhaindo and Mohamed Mamdouh) and two for Kielce (Igor Karacic and Alex Dujshebaev)

HC Motor (UKR) vs FC Porto (POR)
Thursday 16 September, 18:45 CET, live on EHFTV

  • the sides have met three times — once in the Champions League 2014/15 qualification tournament, and twice in the 2019/20 group phase. Each team won one confrontation and the last ended in a draw
  • Motor finished third in the recent SEHA League finals before winning their first league game last weekend against Odessa
  • both teams reached the EHF Champions League play-offs last season, with Motor falling against Meshkov Brest while Porto were eliminated by Aalborg
  • Motor signed one former Champions League winner this summer: Jonas Truchanovicius, who lifted the trophy in 2018 with Montpellier

Telekom Veszprém (HUN) vs Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA)
Thursday 16 September, 18:45 CET, live on EHFTV

  • the last time Veszprém and Paris met was in the three/four placement match at the EHF FINAL4 2020, which Paris won 31:26
  • since 2013, PSG won seven of the 12 confrontations between the two teams, while Veszprém took four victories and one game ended in a draw
  • Paris won their first league game against Istres last Friday, while Veszprém lifted their first trophy of the season at the SEHA League finals. The Hungarian side defeated Zagreb 31:29 in the SEHA final
  • eight Paris players returned from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics with a medal: Yann Genty, Vincent Gerard, the Karabatic brothers Nikola and Luka, and Nedim Remili won gold, while Ferran Sole took bronze with Spain. Henrik Toft Hansen and Mikkel Hansen clinched silver with Denmark
  • three Veszprém players also returned from Tokyo with silverware, as Rodrigo Corrales and Jorge Maqueda celebrated bronze and Kentin Mahe won gold with France. Yahia Omar played for bronze in a historic result with Egypt and was the first non-European All-star Team member in almost three decades

MOTW: SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER) vs Barça (ESP)
Thursday 16 September, 20:45 CET, live on EHFTV

  • the teams have played against each other in the Champions League nine times since 2003. Barça won seven of those games, including the last six, but Flensburg won the most important one: the 2013/14 semi-final
  • Barça have already won two trophies this season: the Spanish Supercup against Ademar Leon (30:27) and the Catalunya Cup against Granollers (36:26)
  • Flensburg won their first game in the German Bundesliga before drawing against Erlangen (27:27) last Saturday
  • last season in the Champions League, Barça won the title after beating Aalborg in the final, while Flensburg were defeated by Aalborg in the quarter-finals
  • Barça lost Jure Dolenec (Limoges), Cedric Sorhaindo (Dinamo Bucuresti) and Kevin Møller (Flensburg) this summer, but signed French Olympic champion Melvyn Richardson (Montpellier)
  • this game will be the first with Barça in the Champions League for new coach Antonio Carlos Ortega. The former player coached Hannover-Burgdorf last season
  • Flensburg signed three Danish players this summer: Emil Jakobsen, Kevin Møller and Aaron Mensing. It will be Møller’s first game against his former club  

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