Veszprém top pre-season power rankings
After a few weeks of preparation, friendly games and domestic league confrontations, the Machineseeker EHF Champions League’s group phase is about to start with games such as Kielce vs Nantes, Veszprém vs Paris and Kiel vs Elverum already on the menu.
Before the ball starts rolling, here are the 10 teams that appear to be in the best form. The list includes the usual suspects including titleholders Barça, Telekom Veszprém and THW Kiel, but also a few surprises.
10. SC Magdeburg
The German side are making their comeback in the Champions League after playing in the EHF European League, following their Bundesliga victory in 2021/22. They defeated Chambéry and Aalborg in friendlies but lost 33:36 to Kiel in the German SuperCup. Among good news, new goalkeeper Nikola Portner seems already on top form.
9. HC PPD Zagreb
The Croatian club have had a hectic summer. Double Champions League winner Timur Dibirov seems on fine form already, and the team reached the SEHA League final, only to be beaten by Veszprém. But the summer’s big signing Vuko Borozan left the club last week, with Zagreb saying he had failed to adequately prepare for the season, according to reports. The first Champions League game against GOG will give a better indication of where Zagreb currently stand.
8. Paris Saint-Germain Handball
It has been a summer of changes for Paris, as numerous players left and came during the break. And it seems there are still a couple of adjustments to make, as Paris were defeated by Toulouse in their preparation, as well as by Nantes in the French Super Cup. They will need to improve their level dramatically if they want to come back from Veszprém with points in the first round.
7. Lomza Industria Kielce
They may have reached the EHF FINAL4 final last season, but Kielce are not firing on all cylinders just yet. The Polish side have suffered a few defeats recently, including to Flensburg and Kiel at the Veszprém Handball Festival, and they have yet to unleash the power they surely have.
6. C.S. Dinamo Bucuresti
With five wins in the Romanian league in as many games, it’s fair to say that Xavi Pascual and his men have started their season in the best manner. The Romanian team reinforced themselves with many talented players, such as Lazar Kukic and Champions League winner Ali Zein. And judging on their current form, Dinamo could well upset some of the high-profile teams in the Champions League this season.
5. Aalborg Håndbold
Beating domestic rivals and fellow Champions League participants GOG in the Danish Super Cup is a great way to start the season. Combine that with the return of Mikkel Hansen, back earlier than expected, and three wins in the Danish league, and it is clear that Aalborg are aiming to match or better their historic 2021 season.
4. HBC Nantes
Right from the start of the season, Nantes showed everyone how ready they were. After winning four of their five preparation games, against strong teams such as SL Benfica and FC Porto, they defeated Paris in the French Super Cup to take their first trophy of the season. Recruits like Kauldi Odriozola and Ivan Pesic are already on the right track, hitting at great things for the season to come.
3. THW Kiel
After reaching the EHF FINAL4 last season, Kiel are starting 2022/23 in high spirits. Sander Sagosen might still be missing, but this is no big trouble for Filip Jicha and his boys. They defeated SC Magdeburg to win the German Super Cup before giving no chance to Stuttgart and Leipzig in the Bundesliga, winning both games by more than 10 goals. Elverum will know that beating THW in the first Match of the Week will be a tough ask.
No matter what changes are made to the Barça roster, the Spanish side always deliver. Granollers could not do anything against Dika Mem & Co. in the Catalunya Super Cup, and when the two teams met again in the Liga Asobal, the Blaugranas won the contest easily. They also inflicted a nine-goal defeat on Torrelavega, showing they start the Champions League season as strong as ever.
1. Telekom Veszprém HC
Veszprém were one of the first teams to come back into the gym at the end of July. But this was for a good cause, as the Hungarian side lifted the SEHA League trophy at the start of September, beating Eurofarm Pelister and Zagreb at the SEHA Final 4. Not only did Rodrigo Corrales and his teammates triumph in Croatia, but they also defeated Kiel, Flensburg and Plock in friendlies, putting them top of the Champions League power ranking – for now.