The tenth round of the Champions League is the last one in the group stage for teams in Groups C and D. With at least a point in Denmark, Gorenje can confirm a place in the next stage of the competition. Meshkov and Celje are meeting in Belarus, in what could be a decisive match. Weakened PPD Zagreb are hosting the Bundesliga champions Rhein-Neckar Loewen, and Vardar return to Skopje and play Kristianstad. Metalurg will look to provide a good performance in their last Champions League match of the season.
For the second week in a row, Arena Zagreb will have a chance to see mid-week Champions League action. Similar to last week, the opponents are going to be strong- Bundesliga champions Rhein-Neckar Loewen. The Germans have recorded their 4th draw in the competition, after coming close to giving Vardar their first defeat in Round 9. On the other side, PPD Zagreb were again unable to record their first win of the season, falling to Barcelona by 8, with their new coach Zlatko Saracevic in charge for the first time. Last time these two teams met in Zagreb was last December, when PPD Zagreb won 25:21. However, the Croatian champions do not look as good this season, with the loss in Germany against RN Loewen in October proving so.
Saturday brings us a key match for two SEHA teams that go head to head. Meshkov are playing hosts to Celje Pivovarna Lasko. The game might be decisive, as both sides currently have 5 points, but the Slovenian side is the one that left the better impression in the previous weeks. The two teams met twice this season, both times in Celje. Meshkov won their first match, in the SEHA - Gazprom League, but they split the points in their only Champions League encounter. The Belarusian champions are currently on a 4-game losing streak in the Champions League, so they will likely see this is as a must-win match for them, especially since they are the favorites coming into this one. Celje have lost their last 2 games, but beat Kiel in Germany before that. It will be tight in Brest!
Later that day, Vardar are back in Skopje after a few matches played away. Their next opponents are the Swedish champions Kristianstad. They have recently picked up their form, gathering 5 points out of possible 6 in the last three matches, becoming a strong candidate to go through, ahead of PPD Zagreb and Wisla Plock. Their last win against Pick Szeged was perhaps the most impressive one so far and gave them a nice confidence boost before this round’s match against Vardar. The European champions have recorded their second draw, after a heroic save from Sterbik against RN Loewen. They will look to continue their stellar form in order to remain the only undefeated team in the competition. It is going to be their second clash of the season, and Kristianstad will look for a revenge, after being defeated by Vardar by 3 goals, a few weeks ago in Sweden.
Saturday’s action brings us one more match featuring a SEHA side, with Metalurg traveling to Portugal to face Sporting. With both sides unable to reach the next stage of the competition, it is very much possible that it will be a high-scoring match. Of course, Metalurg will use this match as another learning experience for their young squad. After a series of poor results, the Macedonian side managed to defeat Tatran Presov in the 8th round of the SEHA- Gazprom League, almost not being able to sustain an 11-goal lead. Earlier this season, Metalurg were able to defeat the Portuguese side 28:27, so another close match might be on the table for the spectators.
The final match of the group stage for Gorenje Velenje is the most important one. 12 points gathered so far, does not guarantee them the second place in Group C, because Ademar Leon have 10, with both teams having another match on their schedules. Gorenje travel to Denmark to play Skjern, a team that is currently the leader of the group, with a secured spot in the play-off round. The Danish side was one of the victims that were defeated in Velenje, earlier in the season. However, the story has been different with away matches for Gorenje, only winning one game, in contrast to their perfect 5/5 home record. At least point means the Slovenian vice-champions will qualify for the next stage, but if they lose, they will depend on other results going their way.
Wednesday November 29th
19:00 PPD Zagreb - Rhein-Neckar Loewen
Saturday December 2nd
16:15 Meshkov Brest - Celje Pivovarna Lasko
17:30 Vardar - IFK Kristianstad
21:00 Sporting - Metalurg
Sunday December 3rd
16:00 Skjern - Gorenje Velenje