Last night in Vienna both the Men’s and Women’s draw for the 2007-2008 Champions League took place.
Men’s Groups: http://championsleague.eurohandball.com/index.asp?page=20081021X
Women’s Groups: http://championsleague.eurohandball.com/index.asp?page=20081022X
Here's some initial analysis of the Men's draw:
[b]Changes to the Draw result in First Ever Group of Death[/b]
Champions League Group play has historically offered few surprises and suspense.
As highlighted earlier http://teamhandballnews.com/news-i341-18.html German side Gummersbach’s placement in the 3rd pool increased the possibility of a draw resulting in a group of death. Additionally, on 21 June, the EHF granted wild card entries to 4th place Spanish side Barcelona and 2nd place Danish side Viborg. http://championsleague.eurohandball.com/index.asp?page=20081070X,10390#scroll These entries were granted after Luxembourg and Greece withdrew their Champions League slots. Barcelona and Viborg, however, do not directly qualify for Group Play, and will have to defeat Braga (Portugal) and Istanbul (Turkey) respectively. They will be heavy favorites to move on to group play and more importantly for last night’s draw they were placed in Pot 4. Thus, theoretically a four team group of death, featuring Barcelona, Gummersbach, and two top teams from Pot 1 and 2 could have been drawn. Instead, only one Group of Death (Group F) with Veszprem, Celje, and Gummersbach resulted. (Imagine that group with Barcelona—It could have happened) Each of these 3 teams would normally have expected to advance, but this year one of them will be staying home. The 2nd toughest group is Group E with Chekov, Hamburg, Zaporzhye, and Viborg.
Group A with Ivry, Astrakhan, Karvina and Barcelona is the weakest group. Look for fourth seed Barcelona to win with the other 3 teams fighting it out for the 2nd seed. Group H with Pick Szeged, Gorenje Velenje, Sarajevo, and the winner of Red Star Belgrade/Brest is also lacking firepower.
[b]Can You Go Home Again?[/b]
Kiel and Montpellier are matched up in Group B, setting the stage for a homecoming for former Montpellier players Nikola Karabatic and Thierry Omeyer. Karabatic left on good terms, but Ohmeyer's departure late last Summer left Montpellier with only one top of the line goalie. The crowd reaction at Rene Bougnol should be interesting.
[b]A Loaded Main Round Competition [/b]
The EHF has tinkered with the format and done away with the Round of 16 and Quarterfinal Home and Away knockout matches. Instead the 16 surviving teams from the Group matches will be drawn into 4 groups that will play a full Home and Away round robin. And instead of two teams advancing from these groups, only one team will move on to the semifinals. These 4 groups should be very competitive and with only one team advancing there should be some real nail-biter matches heading into the final weekend of games. Hopefully, the EHF will further tinker with the format to avoid pairing any clubs from the same nation in these groups. That way, Germany and Spain could once in for all settle which league is better.