Editors Note: The article below is incorrect. See Meteo's comments and my response. The good news is that we will indeed get at least 3 Spanish League – German League showdowns.
The EHF decision to do away with the round of 16 and quarter finals home and away 2 game playoffs and replace it with 4 groups of 4 clubs with only the winner of each group advancing was a great move. The top 16 clubs will now have to fight tooth and nail for the four semifinal spots over a 6 game home and away schedule and it will also avoid two top teams meeting in an elimination match too early in the competition. I’ve got nothing to complain about with that setup.
What I do take issue with, however, is the EHF decision to not arrange the draw so that clubs from the same nation are not matched up against each other in the next group phase. This means the following worst case scenario could arise with the draw:
Group A: Kiel, Gummersbach, Flensburg, GOG Svendborg (3 German, 1 Danish)
Group B: Ciudad Real, Barcelona, Medvedi, Zagreb (2 Spanish, 1 Russian, 1 Croatian)
Group C: Portland San Antonio, Andemar Leon, Montpellier, Ivry (2 Spanish, 2 French)
Group D: Hamburg, Szeged, Celje, Gorenje (1 German, 1 Hungarian, 2 Slovenian)
This could actually happen and on top of the German and Spanish clubs playing each other we could also see the two Slovenian and French sides play each other. Why? The very best part of the Champions League is the opportunity for fans to see clubs they normally don’t get the opportunity to see and for each National league to stake its claim for superiority. Instead we could be subject to several national derbies. Do we really need to see Flensburg and Kiel play each other again twice? Maybe, but only later in the competition.
Why not simply follow the same rules as the first group phase and keep clubs from the same nation from playing each other? If it’s the right thing to do for the first round groups its even more so for the final groups. And with 4 German sides and 4 Spanish sides we would have 4 German-Spanish showdowns. Would that be compelling handball—You bet!
Let’s hope the EHF makes this simple fix for next years Champions League and while they’re at it why not make a video stream available for purchase via the internet. It wouldn’t take me two seconds to pull out my credit card for that.