09 Sep. 2022
After a four-month wait, the EHF Champions League Women is back with a bang, as 16 teams line up in the 30th season of the European premium competition. The first match day of the group phase is scheduled for 10 and 11 September, with the first heavyweight clash pitting together Vipers Kristiansand and Brest Bretagne Handball in a rematch of the 2020/21 final.
All the sides that have won the competition over the past 12 seasons – Győri Audi ETO KC, Buducnost BEMAX, CSM București and Vipers Kristiansand – are at the start. With 11 nations represented, five countries boast two teams each and six countries have a single team at the start of the competition.
Vipers, the reigning champions, are eyeing their third title in a row after having already secured the trophy in 2021 and 2022. A single team has managed this feature in the past, Győr, in 2017, 2018 and 2019, underlining the challenge facing the Norwegian champions.
The Norwegian powerhouse had a busy summer on the transfer market. They lost key players like right back Nora Mørk and centre back Isabelle Gulldén, but pulled a considerable coup by signing Anna Vyakhireva, the MVP of the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and Jamina Roberts, the All-star left back of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Another side that strengthened their squad and aim to make their comeback to the EHF FINAL4 for the first time since 2019 is CSM Bucuresti. The Romanian powerhouse ushered in three French players, goalkeeper Laura Glauser and backs Kalidiatou Niakaté and Grâce Zaadi, all three silver medallists at the 2021 IHF Women’s World Championship, while also welcoming back line player Crina Pintea.
Perennial contenders Győri Audi ETO KC, the team with the most significant number of wins in the history of the competition, 191 in 254 matches, are also eyeing their first trophy since 2019. The Hungarian powerhouse welcomed line player Yvette Broch and goalkeeper Sandra Toft, the 2021 IHF World Player of the Year, but also signed Slovenian right back Ana Gros in a superb summer that helped Ambros Martin really enhance the team’s potential.
Only two rookies will debut in this competition season – Romanian champions CS Rapid București and Norwegian outfit Storhamar Handball Elite – both being drawn in Group B. Where three of the last season’s EHF FINAL4 participants, Győr, Esbjerg and Metz, will clash.
In fact, the Romanian capital, Bucuresti, is the only city in the competition to send two teams in the EHF Champions League Women this season, as Rapid have also made strong transfers, with the likes of Orlane Kanor and Alexandra Lacrabère, both world champions at Germany 2017, strengthening the Romanian squad.
Aside from Győr needing nine wins to secure their 200th win in the competition's history, two individual milestones could be completed this season. Jovanka Radicevic (978 goals) and Cristina Neagu (910 goals) could become only the second and third players to hit the 1000-goal mark this season, provided they avoid injuries.
Radicevic and Neagu can also leapfrog legendary Hungarian centre back Anita Görbicz as the all-time top scorer of the European premium competition, with Győr's legend having scored 1,016 goals.
EHF Champions League Women 2022/23 season
Group A: Vipers Kristiansand (NOR), Brest Bretagne Handball (FRA), FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN), Krim Mercator Ljubljana (SLO), Odense Handbold (DEN), CSM Bucuresti (ROU), DHK Banik Most (CZE), SG BBM Bietigheim (GER)
Group B: Gyori Audi ETO KC (HUN), Team Esbjerg (DEN), Metz Handball (FRA), Buducnost BEMAX (MNE), Storhamar Handball Elite (NOR), CS Rapid Bucuresti (ROU), RK Lokomotiva Zagreb (CRO), Kastamonu Belediyesi GSK (TUR)
For more information on the EHF Champions League Women, visit eurohandball.com.
Photo: EHF / kolektiff