The season in the VELUX EHF Champions League 2016/2016 officialy starts on Wednesday in Istanbul where Besiktas MOGAZ and ABC UMinho will clash for the first points. Handball-Planet.com prepares intro to the another fantastic handball season with our prediction of the favorites, losers, possible surprises.
We will try to give answers on following questions…
- Who will be the winners of Group A and Group B?
- Who will the 7th and 8th in Group A and B)?
- Who will be the two teams from Group C and Group D to qualify for TOP 16 – knockout stage?
- Who will be TOP 8 teams in Europe in season 2016/2017?
- Who will play at the VELUX EHF Champions League 2016/2017 FINAL4?
- Who is the biggest favorite to win the EHF Champions League 2016/2017?
- Who will be the biggest positive and negative surprise of the competition?
- Who will be the TOP scorer, MVP and TOP goalkeeper of the VELUX EHF Champions League 2016/2017?
VESZPREM AND KIELCE TO WIN PRELIMINARY GROUP
The finalists of the VELUX EHF Champions League 2016, Telekom Veszprem and Vive Tauron Kielce, are the biggest favorites to win the Preliminary Round and get a chance to avoid TOP 16 battles with direct VISA for the quarter-final stage.
EHF CL season 2016/2017 starts with incredible disbalance in the quality of Groups A and B. First five teams from the Group A, Telekom Veszprem, PSG Handball, THW Kiel, SG Flensburg and FC Barcelona, could be in TOP 2 in Group B based on their quality and tradition. This will give interesting start of knock-out stage where the higher placement in Group B won’t guarantee a role of favorite in the clash with some of the teams from Group B, who will be on position 4,5 and 6.
Veszprem and Kielce will have the biggest focus on the European elite competition due their non-competitive challenges in regional or national leagues. But, that won’t be a case with German teams, while PSG Handball and FC Barcelona need time to incorporate newcomers in the system.
KADETTEN, CELJE PL, KRISTIANSTAD AND SILKEBORG TO BE UNDER THE LINE
Four teams who will finish EHF Champions League with the last whistle of the Preliminary Round would be Danish Silkeborg and Swiss Kadetten Schaffhausen in Group A, while in Group B, Swedish IFK Kristianstad and Slovenian RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko have lowest chances to keep themselves among TOP 6. Three of four of these teams have even better rosters (or at least experienced for one season) than in 2015, but that won’t be enough to compete with creme de la creme.
The EHF CL champions from 2003, Montpellier Handball, prepared stronger roster than in the last season, when they played in upper part of the CL. Playing at Group C will be the perfect chance for Canayer and his guys to build self-confidence and winning spirit. They are the strongest team of the group together with Spanish La Rioja, while in the Group B, favorite’s role goes to Motor Zaporozhye and French HBC Nantes.
Suma sumarum, Montpellier and Ukrainians are two strongest candidates to challenge the second teams of Group A and B at TOP 16.
TOP 8 TEAMS
German trio THW Kiel, SG Flensburg and Rhein Neckar Lowen, French Paris Saint Germain, Hungarian Telekom Veszprem, Polish Vive Tauron Kielce, Macedonian RK Vardar Skopje and Spanish FC Barcelona Lassa are TOP 8 teams for the season 2016/2017.
COLOGNE WITHOUT GERMANS FINALLY?
In era of great PSG, Veszprem and Kielce, scenario about non-German EHF Final 4 in Cologne becoming ever year more realistic. Is this the year in which will mainly German handball fans watch some other heroes after they witnessed fantastic two non-German finals in the last two years? THW Kiel, SG Flensburg and Rhein Neckar Lowen have quality to play until the end on European level, but it looks that DKB Bundesliga trophy is more wanted.
Telekom Veszprem, Vive Tauron Kielce, PSG Handball and for the first time, RK Vardar Skopje, are the closest teams to Lanxess Arena days next May.
PSG AND VESZPREM…
Two biggest favorites to win the VELUX EHF Champions League 2016/2017 are PSG Handball and Telekom Veszprem. Both teams are stronger than in previous season, with specific Cologne’s experiences, hungry for success, for the title which they only dream about. Also, this will be the second year of coaches Zvonimir Serdarusic (PSG Handball)and Xavi Sabate (Veszprem) who had more time to promote their own ideas…
POSITIVE SURPRISE – RK VARDAR, MESHKOV BREST
Symbols of SEHA GAZPROM competition, RK Vardar Skopje and Meshkov Brest, could be the biggest positive surprises of the upcoming European season. RK Vardar have played three quarter-finals in a row. Team of Raul Gonzales finally got quality reinforcement on the level necessary that Spaniard can make step forward. Canellas, but especially Borozan and Dereven, will give shooting power to the Macedonian team, which was the biggest problem in the past years. They are, for the first time, ready to play for Final4 without underestimation.
Meshkov Brest are strong side with good home court. With Jamali, Kristopans and Atman in the backline, team of Sergey Bebeshko could make some surprises in the elite division, but for the first time, it looks that few scalps of the favorites and brave TOP 16 death would be good enough for satisfaction.
NEGATIVE SURPRISE – THW KIEL, PICK SZEGED
The biggest German handball team and certainly, THE INSTITUTION in world of handball, THW Kiel struggling to find the rhytm after few „stupid years“ in which Management failed to make proper transition after era of Omeyer, Jicha, Ilic, Narcisse, Ahlm. Kiel are still not ready to be „old one“.
On the other side, Hungarian PICK Szeged were raising year by year,but Juan Pastor made the new team which will need time to grow up. Not in this season.
PHOTO: Jozo Čabraja