Eight teams on the hunt for a quarter-finals ticket
While four teams from four nations have already booked their places in the Machineseeker EHF Champions League quarter-finals, two more countries are certain of having representation in the next stage of the competition.
The play-offs, beginning on Wednesday this week, feature two domestic derbies in Hungary and Denmark. Aalborg and GOG face each other for the first time in the Champions League in Match of the Week, but for the third time this season, while OTP Bank-PICK Szeged and Telekom Veszprém HC duel on international ground also for the first time.
Four-time Champions League winners THW Kiel will face three-times winner Xavi Pascual and his club C.S. Dinamo Bucuresti for a spot in the quarter-finals, while Nantes will start their quest for a third EHF FINAL4 presence in five years in Plock.
PLAY-OFFS, FIRST LEG
OTP Bank-PICK Szeged vs Telekom Veszprém HC (HUN)
Wednesday 22 March, 18:45 CET, live on EHFTV
- Veszprém finished group A third below PSG and Magdeburg, while Szeged finished sixth in group B after starting with four consecutive defeats
- while the two have never met internationally they are fierce domestic rivals; Szeged beat Veszprém in both legs of the Hungarian league finals in 2021 and 2022, but Veszprém won their most recent encounter in October 31:26
- in the Hungarian league, both sides are on 36 points each, but Szeged played one match more. Both won their away matches last weekend, with Szeged beating FTC 37:33 and Veszprém defeating Gyongyos 38:29
- wings Marco Sostaric and Sebastian Frimmel are Szeged’s top scorers after the group phase with 45 strikes each; Veszprém centre back Rasmus Lauge is top for his side with 66 strikes
- Veszprém play their 28th EHF Champions League season and reached the quarter-finals or further 20 times; Szeged are in their 21st season but have never made it to the semi-finals
- Veszprém went separate ways with Serbian left back Petar Nenadic, who joined Paris Saint-Germain. His replacement is French star Nedim Remili, who arrived from Kielce and can now feature in the Champions League
We have reached the period when the decisive matches are imminently coming, and it looks like the biggest one will be against our biggest rival, Veszprém. The first game in such a match-up is of great importance to make sense of the return match. The arena will be jam-packed, so the atmosphere will be good.
It is my first game in the Champions League with Veszprém so I can’t wait for this game, it will be a hard game for sure. We are ready for this kind of game and we are waiting also for these kind of games now. This is the best part of the season. Play hard, play smart and we will see what happen.
C.S. Dinamo Bucuresti (ROU) vs THW Kiel (GER)
Wednesday 22 March, 18:45 CET, live on EHFTV
- for the first time in club history, Dinamo have made it to the knock-out stage after narrowly missing the 2021/22 play-offs. Kiel have got to the quarter-finals or beyond 22 times
- with 13 points on their account, Dinamo finished fifth in group A, winning 10 points on home ground; Kiel finished fourth in group B
- in 2001/02, Dinamo duelled with THW Kiel in round 4 of the EHF Cup, losing twice. Dinamo’s only victory against a German team in 12 encounters was a 30:28 win against Nordhorn in the 2003/04 EHF Cup quarter-finals
- scoring 70 goals in 14 group matches, Ukrainian right wing Andrii Akimenko is among the top five scorers of the competition. The best THW striker is Norwegian Harald Reinkind (53 goals)
- beating Baia Mare 38:22 in their last domestic match, Dinamo consolidated their number one status in the Romanian league, while THW took the points in Melsungen on Sunday (23:19)
- Dinamo coach Xavi Pascual faced THW Kiel twice in EHF Champions League finals with his former club Barca, and lost both of them in 2010 and 2020
We will try to do our best to play our handball and we know that Kiel is a very difficult team. But we will try, we will go 100 per cent and also we will have supporters with us, so we will give our best and try to win.
Orlen Wisla Plock (POL) vs HBC Nantes (FRA)
Wednesday 22 March, 20:45 CET, live on EHFTV
- Plock finished sixth in group A, getting their ticket in the last group phase round thanks to an away win in Porto (28:27)
- Nantes did not have to wait so long, as the French side finished third in group B, with 15 points
- Plock and Nantes played against each other in the 2017/18, with the French side winning both confrontations 32:30
- Nantes’ Jérémy Toto wore Plock’s colours in 2020/21, and will be the only player on court to have played for both clubs
- Plock announced last week that Veszprem’s goalkeeper Mirko Alilovic would join them next summer
- both teams won their domestic confrontations last weekend: Plock against Szczecin (35:20) and Nantes in Cesson-Rennes (35:26)
Nantes show in this season in the French championship and in the Champions League that they are a really strong team, very complete attack and defence. They are the favourites, we play without pressure.
When I was in Plock, we were the best defence of the season in the European Cup. Plock defence is quite special, a real trademark. It’s going to be two really tough games, over 120 minutes. We are united, we know where we want to go and that very beautiful things could open up to us.
MOTW: Aalborg Håndbold (DEN) vs GOG (DEN)
Thursday 23 March, 18:45 CET, live on EHFTV
- Aalborg finished fifth in group B, booking their play-offs ticket with 13 points
- GOG grabbed fourth spot in group A in the last round, thanks to a win against Zagreb (33:29)
- the two teams have played each other three times already this season, with Aalborg winning twice in the Danish league and GOG winning the Santander Cup quarter-final match in December. Aalborg also beat GOG for the Super Cup in August
- five GOG players feature in the competition’s top 20 scorers (Emil Madsen, Simon Pytlick, Morten Olsen, Lukas Jørgensen and Jerry Tollbring), alongside Aalborg’s Sebastian Barthold
- GOG qualified for the Champions League play-offs only twice in history while Aalborg made it four times previously, progressing to the EHF FINAL4 in 2021
- both teams won their domestic confrontations last weekend: GOG in Nordsjaelland (34:31) and Aalborg against Mors (29:21)
Photo © Henrik Hansen
The game has already been named one of the biggest games in Danish history. The games against GOG is always intense and really anything can happen. It depends on who has got the upper hand on the day, but at home we will always see ourselves as favourites, making the best foundation for us before the away game.