02 Mar. 2020
After six months of competition, the top men’s club competition in Europe, the VELUX EHF Champions League, has reached the knock-out stage. 14 rounds of matches were played in the group phase, concluding on Sunday, and now the top teams are ready to start along the last straight towards the finals.
The Last 16 phase, featuring 12 teams, will be played from 18-29 March. Two clubs have already secured a place in the quarter-finals as winners of their respective groups: 2019 IHF Super Globe finalists Barça and THW Kiel.
Super Globe title holders Barça topped Group A thanks to a total of 13 wins in the group phase, and just one defeat – in their season opener in September. German club Kiel collected nine wins, two draws and three losses in the group phase, topping Group B.
From Group A, the other Last 16 sides are Paris Saint-Germain HB (France), MOL-Pick Szeged (Hungary), Aalborg Handbold (Denmark), SG Flensburg-Handewitt (Germany) and RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko (Slovenia). Celje were the last team confirmed to progress, just edging out Croatian side HC PPD Zagreb with one more point.
For Celje, it is the first Last 16 berth since 2014, while Zagreb bow out of the competition, along with the sixth-ranked team in Group A, Elverum Handball (Norway).
The situation in Group B was clearer, with the top six sides well ahead of the two eliminated teams: HC Meshkov Brest (Belarus) and HC Motor Zaporozhye (Ukraine). Although they collected the same number of points as group winners Kiel, Hungarian club Telekom Veszprém HC placed second ahead of PGE VIVE Kielce (Poland) in third, Montpellier HB (France) in fourth, FC Porto Sofarma (Portugal) in fifth, and defending champions HC Vardar (North Macedonia) in sixth.
The remaining two teams reached the Last 16 by way of the elimination play-offs for clubs in Groups C and D. Groups C and D played only 10 rounds of home-and-away matches in the group phase, after which the two top-ranked sides in each group progressed to the play-offs.
The four play-off matches took place at the end of February, with each pairing playing two legs and the winner decided based on the aggregate score. After they were eliminated in the same stage by Portuguese club Sporting CP in the previous season, Romanian team C.S. Dinamo Bucuresti recorded a 52:49 aggregate victory against Sporting and became the first side from their nation to reach the men’s Champions League Last 16.
The other play-off saw Polish team Orlen Wisla Plock emerge the aggregate winners, 51:49, over Spanish team Bidasoa Irun, but each side take one victory each in the separate matches – Plock won the first clash 32:25, while Irun were victorious in the second, 24:19.
The top scorer at the end of the VELUX EHF Champions League 2019/20 group phase is Montpellier wing Hugo Descat with 75 goals.
More information on the Champions League can be found on the official website of the competition.