After Rhein-Neckar Löwen and HBC Nantes threw off the VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16 on Wednesday, attention is turning into five more first-leg games this weekend, including the Match of the Week between two opponents that know one another very well: HC PPD Zagreb and also HC Vardar.
Zagreb, holding the growing season ’s attendance record of 9,134 audiences, hope the support of their fans might help them obtain a favourable result contrary to the 2017 champions.
Both teams met in 2016/17 and 2017/18, with Vardar winning three occasions and Zagreb once
Zagreb come in Last 16 after two years
Zagreb (3 88 goals conceded) and also Vardar (390) showed a Number of the best defensive play at the group stage
Zagreb’s Zlatko Horvat is competition’s third-best scorer with 73 targets, while Dainis Kristopans leads Vardar with 6 1
Both teams met twice this season, with each winning their home game at the SEHA League: Zagreb 26:23, Vardar 28:23
Taking under account the performance throughout the group phase, 2017 VELUX EHF Champions League champions HC Vardar will be viewed by many as favourites in this Balkan derby in the Last 16.
After four successive victories at the beginning of the season, they fundamentally took the next position in Group A, while Zagreb had four victories, three draws and seven defeats to complete sixth in Group B.
Back in January, the Croatian club entered the second portion of the season with a new trainer since Branko Tamse substituted Lino Cervar. The newly appointed trainer introduced a faster style of handball, also has fulfilled his target by hitting the Last 16.
Last season, Zagreb failed to get beyond the group phase while Vardar made everything of the way into the VELUX EHF FINAL4 at Cologne again. In 2013, Zagreb and Vardar shared with the spoils as they each won their home game at the regular season of this SEHA-Gazprom League, with both advancing into the four-team finals tournament early April.
Varder have left an injury crisis as trainer Roberto Garcia Parrondo could input Saturday’s Match of the Week at full strength. His counterpart Tamse, however, will overlook line player Leon Susnja, that underwent operation recently.
Even though stats tend to give Vardar the advantage, Zagreb will be willing to put to a strong fight and, backed by their home crowd, provide themselves a opportunity to seem at the quarter-finals for the first time since the 2015/16 season.
TEXT: Amina Idrizi / ew