11 Sep. 2020
The new season of the DELO EHF Champions League, Europe’s premier international club competition for women’s teams, is set to begin this weekend, with the first matches throwing off on Saturday, 12 September. The opening to the 2020/21 season marks a long-awaited return to the top-level court for the Champions League clubs, after the competition was cancelled at the end of last season’s main round due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The unusual situation means that no team will be defending a title from last season, but three-time back-to-back winners from Hungary, Győri Audi ETO KC, will be aiming for their fourth consecutive – albeit with a small gap – trophy.
Amid a series of changes to the structure of the international club competitions organised by the European Handball Federation (EHF) this season, the DELO EHF Champions League enters a new structure for 2020/21. Previously, the women’s competition was played in a group stage (four groups of four teams) followed by a main round (two groups of six teams) and finally the knock-out finals stage, culminating in the EHF FINAL4.
Starting in 2020/21, the women’s competition will follow the same structure as the men’s, which means an extended group phase and no main round. The 16 teams are split into two groups of eight, from where the top six teams will proceed to the knock-out stage. The two top-ranked clubs in each group will skip the play-offs and qualify directly for the quarter-finals, while the other four teams that rank among the top six in each group will meet for the play-offs.
“I think it is great we are going to have a new system and it will be very interesting and intense,” 2013 IHF World Player of the Year Andrea Lekic, who has transferred to a new club for this season (Buducnost from Montenegro), told eurohandball.com. “We are going to have much more interesting results. It will be new for us and I expect many surprises. Everyone will be able to take some points from the favourites.”
Buducnost will play in Group B, where Győr will start their unique title defence campaign. Also in Group B are Romanian club SCM Ramnicu Valcea, German team BV Borussia 09 Dortmund, Russian club CSKA, French side Brest Bretagne Handball, Danish team Odense Håndbold and Croatian side HC Podravka Vegeta.
The other three clubs that contested the last women’s EHF FINAL4 alongside Győr in 2019 will start in Group A: Metz Handball from France, Rostov-Don from Russia and Vipers Kristiansand from Norway. Also competing in Group A are 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 women’s Champions League group phase is set to run from 12 September 2020 to 14 February 2021. The play-offs will follow from 6 to 14 March, the quarter-finals from 3 to 11 April, and the semi-finals and finals will take place at the DELO EHF FINAL4 on 29 and 30 May in Budapest.
More information on the women’s Champions League can be found on the official website.
PHOTO: Gyori Audi ETO KC