At first glance this Group A matchup between 3-0 Rhein-Neckar Lowen (R-NL) and O-3 Kielce looks like a stinker and the EHF should have looked for another option for its game of the week. But, this is the Group of Death where all 6 clubs have a realistic shot at qualifying for the round of 16 and where 3 clubs, Kiel, Barcelona and R-NL have realistic expectations of winning the title.
Poland’s Kielce started their Champions League campaign with 2 bad losses to Celje and Chambery. The 36-30 loss to Celje at home, in particular, could come back to haunt them if the 4th place slot in this group comes down to a head-to-head with Celje. Last weekend, however, they gave defending champions Kiel a real battle in Germany losing only by a score of 33-29. As is often the case in the smaller handball nations in Europe, there’s only room enough for one good club in their National League. Kielce is clearly that side for Poland and their roster has several national team players as well as the national team coach, Bogdan Wenta. Several players have also spent time in the German Bundesliga so there will be no intimidation whatsoever. Because they’ve dug themselves a hole they are also in desperate need of a victory.
Rhein-Neckar Lowen, on the other hand is sitting pretty all alone in first place. They’re smart enough to know, however, that if they want to stay there, they’re going to have to take care of sides like Kielce on the road. For 3 R-NL players, Karol Bielecki, Slawomir Szmal and Gregrory Tkaczyk they will also get to play a match in front of their countrymen. Szmal has even signed a contract to play for Kielce next year. As for Bielecki, the James Worthy of the HBL (Sometimes I like to go old school on my references), this will be the opportunity for many to see first hand on TV, how he’s adjusted to losing the sight in one of his eyes.
The oddsmakers have installed R-NL as a 2.5 goal favorite. The match is available live on ehfTV at 3:00 PM (Central European Time) or 9:00 AM on the East Coast of the U.S, this Sunday, 17 October. For those with access to the MhZ network it will be rebroadcast at 4:00 PM (East Coast Time). As always, THN will post the On-Demand link when it’s available.
ehfTV On Demand Link: http://www.ehftv.com/ec/cl/men/2010-11/video/001244
USA Team Handball: MHz Worldview to Air Velux EHF Champions League Across USA: http://usateamhandball.org/news/2010/10/08/mhz-worldview-to-air-velux-ehf-champions-league-across-usa/38948?ngb_id=42
EHF: Interview with Kielce and Polish National Team Head Coach, Bogdan Wenta: http://www.ehfcl.com/men/2010-11/article/13441/Strong+support+by+the+%22eighth+player%22
EHF: Interview with Kielce and Serbian National Team player Rastko Stojković: http://www.ehfcl.com/men/2010-11/article/13421/Results+will+come+soon
EHF: Interview with R-NL and Polish National Team Goalie, Slawomir Szmal: http://www.ehfcl.com/men/2010-11/article/13443/Szmal%3A+%22Great+to+be+at+home%22
EHF: RNL Playing with new confidence: http://www.ehfcl.com/men/2010-11/article/13439/RNL+playing+with+new+confidence