Men´s Champions League
stregspiller.com – MATCH OF THE WEEK PREVIEW – A recent flash poll by stregspiller.com revealed a 24% chance of SG Flensburg-Handewitt proceeding to the VELUX EHF FINAL4.
As the German champions are down 28:22 against Veszprém after the first leg of the quarter-finals, it’s no wonder that even the most die-hard supporters have lost faith. What does it take for Flensburg to reverse course and make the impossible possible?
Let’s take a look.
By Peter Bruun
Quarter-final – 2nd Leg, Telekom Veszprém KC vs SG Flensburg-Handewitt, Saturday, May 4th, 17:30 hrs.
Veszprém lead 28:22 after the 1st Leg
The match at Veszprém Arena will be the 12th meeting in an European Cup match between these two clubs.
Of the 11 previous matches, Veszprém won six and Flensburg succeeded three times, while two encounters ended in a draw.
For Veszprém playmaker and left wing, Kentin Mahé, the match is yet another reunion with his former teammates, as the French international was representing Flensburg until last season
Veszprém – currently second in the Hungarian league behind Pick Szeged – have not faced competition in their domestic league since April 17, when they won 37:22 at home, against Mezokovesdi.
Flensburg played as recently as Wednesday evening, when they booked their 28th victory in 29 Bundesliga games, defeating Leipzig 27:21, at home.
Roland Mikler/Arpad Sterbik vs Benjamin Buric/Torbjørn Bergerud
Slowly but surely Mikler has overtaken “the old man” Sterbik as Veszprém´s number one goalkeeper, not the least because of awe inspiring performances like the one in the second half in Flensburg, last week.
If Mikler can deliver a similar output at Veszprém Arena, on Saturday, there’ll be nothing left to play for.
Still, in the goalkeeper position rest some of Flensburg´s hopes.
In case, Benjamin Buric steps up and has one of these outstanding days, he so often had this season, and if Mikler does not reach the level of the first leg, the duel between the goalkeepers can turn into an advantage for Flensburg.
Dragan Gajic/Casper Maguc vs Lasse Svan/Marius Steinhauser
No doubt – Lasse Svan still is one of the very best right wings on this planet, but Vezprém’s two Slovenian players are not far behind.
In the first leg, all of them had a quite night by their standards, but it may all change on Saturday.
Kent Robin Tønnesen/Laszlo Nagy vs Holger Glandorf/Magnus Rød
Kent Robin Tønnesen is back from injury, but not back in top form – at least not yet, while veteran Laszlo Nagy has seen his best days.
On Flensburg’s side, the experienced Holger Glandorf and young gun, Magnus Rød, have formed a nearly perfect combination this season.
Mate Lekai/Kentin Mahé vs Rasmus Lauge/Gøran Johannesen
Flensburg coach, Maik Machulla, rotates his right-handed backcourt players quite a bit, and Jim Gottfridsson frequently occupies the center back position instead of Lauge or Johannesen. To keep it simple, we stick to future Veszprém player – Rasmus Lauge – next to Johannesen.
The Danish/Norwegian combination usually performs on a high international level, but so does the Hungarian/French duo on the opposite end of the court, where former Flensburg playmaker, Kentin Mahé is a fine alternative to Mate Lekai.
In the game in Flensburg, Lekai and Mahe outscored Lauge and Johannesen 5:3.
Borut Mackovsek/Petar Nenadic/Momir Ilic vs Jim Gottfridsson/Simon Jeppsson
Of the Veszprém trio, Petar Nenadic appears as playmaker as well, but while he often lacks the discipline when occupying this position, his shooting power comes in handy on the left side of the court, where Mackovsek and veteran Ilic are two of the most reliable shooters.
Flensburg, on the other hand, can’t create the same pressure from this position, and they certainly did not do it in the match last week.
Manuel Strlek/Dejan Manaskov vs Hampus Wanne/Magnus Jøndal
Which duo is better – Veszprém’s Macedonian/Croatian combination or Flensburg’s Scandinavian setup?
Hard to say – Jøndal stood out in game one, while all the other players did not reach top level.
Andreas Nilsson/Blaz Blagotinsek vs Simon Hald/Anders Zachariassen/Johannes Golla/Tobias Karlsson
Let’s focus on Karlsson for a moment.
The game in Hungary may very well be the very last Champions League match for one of handball’s greatest defenders.
Obviously, Karlsson will spend his time in defense, but of the pivots who will be playing at both ends of the court, Nilsson was the one who delivered a top notch performance in the first game, scoring six goals. He was unstoppable.
Blagotinsek is a fine line player as well, but on the defensive end he all too often turns into a liability, collecting suspensions frequently.
Lately, coach Machulla has used Hald and Golla more often, leaving Zachariassen on the bench, but this may change in the upcoming game again, of course.
David Davis/Maik Machulla
The two head coaches have at least one thing in common – both succeeded Sweden’s, Ljubomir Vranjes and both of them built successful teams. Can Machulla motivate his squad to dig deep and pull a sensation? Davis’s job appears to be easier – at least in the upcoming match.