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Date: 3/7/2019

Europe’s premier men’s club competition, the VELUX EHF Champions League, has reached the end of its regular season – and the race to the title is about to heat up as 16 teams prepare for the knock-out stage.


One club has made it for the first time in history: Portuguese side Sporting CP. Sporting are one of two teams to reach the Last 16 via the elimination play-offs, which see the top two clubs from the lower ranked Groups C and D meet for cross matches to determine which two sides proceed. In their two-leg play-off, Sporting defeated Romanian team Dinamo Bucuresti 59:57 on aggregate.


The other club that claimed a Last 16 berth via the elimination play-offs was Orlen Wisla Plock, who staged an incredible comeback after losing the first match by four and trailing Bjerringbro-Silkeborg at half-time in the second encounter. It appeared very much as though the Danish side were on the way to the next stage of the competition, but Plock fought back to take a shock 27:20 win in the second-leg clash and a 49:46 result in their favour on aggregate.


The remaining Last 16 teams reached this stage from the higher ranked groups, A and B. The group winners, Barça Lassa and Paris Saint-Germain HB, earned the right to skip the Last 16 and proceed straight to the quarter-finals. PSG had the most impressive record of the group phase, with a total of 13 wins and just one defeat. Record Champions League winners and current Super Globe title holders Barça collected 12 victories and two losses.


The next five clubs in Groups A and B qualify for the Last 16. All the teams to progress were known ahead of the final round of group matches on the first weekend of March. From Group A, Telekom Veszprém HC, HC Vardar, PGE Vive Kielce, Rhein-Neckar Löwen and HC Meshkov Brest will contest the next stage. From Group B, MOL-Pick Szeged, SG Flensburg-Handewitt, HBC Nantes, HC Motor Zaporozhye and HC PPD Zagreb will fight for places in the quarter-finals.


One noticeable absence from the knock-out stage line-up is that of current title holders Montpellier HB, who bowed out of the race after taking only three wins in the season.


The Last 16 will be played in the same aggregate format as the elimination play-offs, with the overall winner progressing to the quarter-finals. The Last 16 will take place from March 20 to 31.


More information on the Champions League can be found on the official website.  


Photo: telekomveszprem.hu