02 Jul. 2020
The draws for the 2020/21 season of Europe’s top international club competition, the EHF Champions League, were completed on Wednesday night in Vienna.
The upcoming season brings a new format of the Champions League, with both men’s and women’s competitions to follow the same path from group phase to play-offs to quarter-finals to the EHF FINAL4 events, comprising the semi-finals and finals on one weekend.
Previously, the two competitions had different formats from each other. In the men’s competition, the four group phase groups are replaced with two, featuring a total of 16 teams vying for the title. The men’s Champions League previously had a much longer group phase than the women’s, which was played in a group phase then main round format, followed directly by the quarter-finals.
From four group phase groups of four clubs and the top three sides in each group reaching the main round, the women’s competition has now also switched to two group phase groups of eight sides. In both the men’s and the women’s competitions, the top two teams in each group will qualify directly for the quarter-finals, while the teams ranked from third to sixth in each group will contest the play-offs. The two bottom-ranked sides in each competition will be eliminated at the end of the group phase.
The current women’s Champions League title holders, Györi Audi ETO KC from Hungary, were drawn into Group B alongside Romanian club SCM Ramnicu Valcea, Montenegrin team WHC Buducnost, German side Borussia Dortmund, Russian club CSKA, French team Brest Bretagne Handball, Danish side Odense Håndbold and Croatian club HC Podravka Vegeta.
Group A features Metz Handball from France, Rostov-Don from Russia, Vipers Kristiansand from Norway, Team Esbjerg from Denmark, FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria from Hungary, CSM Bucuresti from Romania, SG BBM Bietigheim from Germany and RK Krim Mercator from Slovenia. The first round of matches will be played in mid-September.
“It will be really exciting to start with handball again and to play the Champions League game. With the new playing system it will be different and will be very important to play good in every game to be able to finish on the top position and reach directly the quarter-finals,” Györ goalkeeper Amandine Leynaud told the official website of the EHF, eurohandball.com.
The latest winners of the men’s Champions League, HC Vardar 1961, will start their upcoming campaign in Group A. The North Macedonian club are joined by French side Paris Saint-Germain Handball, Polish team PGE Kielce, Portuguese club FC Porto Sofarma, Hungarian side MOL-Pick Szeged, Belarusian team HC Meshkov Brest, Norwegian club Elverum Handball and Germany’s SG Flensburg-Handewitt.
2019 IHF Super Globe winners Barça will begin in Group B, meeting Hungarian club Telekom Vespzrém, German side THW Kiel, Danish team Aalborg Håndbold, French club HBC Nantes, Ukrainian side HC Motor, Slovenian team RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko and Croatian club HC PPD Zagreb. The men’s Champions League 2020/21 will also start in mid-September. Both competitions’ group phase sections will end in March 2021.
“A really tough group, but on the other hand the other one is not much easier,” Barça goalkeeper Gonzalo Perez de Vargas told eurohandball.com. “It is good to have everything back on the track and a great feeling to know the schedule and the plan.”
More information on the Champions League can be found on the official website of the EHF.
Photo: EHF/Uros Hocevar