02 Apr. 2021
After the Tokyo Handball Qualification 2020 brought the focus of women’s handball to the national teams, the top clubs in Europe are back in action in the DELO EHF Champions League, as the premium European competition is slowly heading to its business end.
Four crucial doubleheaders are scheduled for the next two weekends, as the best teams are preparing for an action-packed week of handball.
There is a French derby, a rookie who wants to prove their mettle and an old-school derby between two powerhouses who have combined for seven of the last eight DELO EHF Champions League titles.
Metz Handball and Brest Bretagne Handball have dominated French women’s handball for the past decade, with their rivalry showcased now on the European stage. Boasting the top goal scorer in the competition, Slovenian right back Ana Gros, who has scored 104 goals in 13 games this season, Brest look to hold the advantage, after winning in January and March against Metz, 30:19 and 27:22, in the French league.
However, Metz are the only French side to have ever secured a DELO EHF FINAL4 berth and their home record in the European premium competition is superb, dropping only one game from the past 25.
Another side who does not have plenty of experience in the DELO EHF Champions League, yet could prove a tough task is Russian powerhouse CSKA. In their first ever European season, CSKA have lost only twice in the first 16 games to seal a quarter-finals berth, where they face former winners CSM Bucuresti.
CSM won the competition in the 2015/16 season, they’re first appearance in the competition, and have missed the DELO EHF FINAL4 only once in the past four seasons. The Romanian side will also aim to calibrate their attack to maximise the four-time IHF Women’s World Player of the Year, Cristina Neagu, who has scored 100 goals in 11 matches this season.
Group A winners Rostov-Don overwhelmed HC Podravka Vegeta in the play-offs round, taking a commanding 71:44 aggregate win, the second-biggest difference in a knock-out game in the last 25 years in the competition, and are clear favourites against Norwegian outfit Vipers Kristiansand.
Both games will be played in Rostov, after the group phase game between the two sides took place in Budapest, as the Russian side snatched a narrow 24:23 win against the Norwegian side. Vipers’ Nora Mork could be back in action after a knee injury, but the challenge will still be big for the Norwegian side.
The last quarter-final sees Györi Audi ETO KC face Buducnost, in an old rivalry rekindled on the biggest of stages.
This is a remake of the 2011/12 season final, when Buducnost took their first-ever DELO EHF Champions League title, after a 54:54 aggregate draw, with the trophy being snatched due to the Montenegrin side scoring more away goals, 29, than Györ’s 25.
The two sides have met 23 times, with Györ dominating the head-to-head record, by taking 16 wins, as opposed to Buducnost’s three.
Györ also won the last eight games between the two teams, including two clear wins, 34:29 and 26:21, in this season’s group phase.
The four winning teams in the quarter-finals will progress to the DELO EHF FINAL4 in Budapest, due to be held on 29 and 30 May.
For more information about the DELO EHF Champions League, visit the competition website.
Photo: Metz Handball