Best 7 - Kielce with three players after group phase, PSG, Barcelona and Veszprem each with two
After 172 games since the beginning of the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase, the EHF journalists have picked the ‘Best 7’ players from each group.
Their choices were tough ones with some very good contenders not making the cut, read on to see who made it.
FC Barcelona Lassa, Paris Saint-Germain Handball, Telekom Veszprem, SG Flensburg, THW Kiel, Bjerringbro-Silkeborg, Orlen Wisla Plock, Kadetten Schaffhausen
The top three teams of the group manage to squeeze two players each in the best seven. FC Barcelona Lassa, who grabbed a direct ticket for the quarter-finals, can thank goalkeeper Gonzalo Perez de Vargas for that and he makes the best seven to start.
With impressive performances against PSG and Kiel, he helped his team build a strong defence, while on the other side of the court, Victor Tomas was as impressive. With 48 goals scored, he's only the fourth best scorer of the Spanish team but he did not miss much and was key in their last game against Wisla Plock, scoring seven goals.
PSG were able to count on Uwe Gensheimer, the second best scorer of the competition currently, helping his side to climb into second place. A Champions League veteran, he's only one goal short of Gabor Csaszar, the top scorer. Not only did the Germany score a lot – they were important goals as well, as he gave the win to his team in the last second in Veszprem and passed the ball to Nedim Remili in Flensburg so he could put the ball into the empty net.
The Frenchman Remili is also among the best seven. For his first-ever VELUX EHF Champions League participation, he found his feet easily, scoring 10 against Plock before adding another nine to his record a few weeks later against Barcelona. No wonder he was nominated for the best rookie of the competition.
Veszprem's young players struggled to shine, but their experienced ones did a great job. Momir Ilic and Renato Sulic are featured in this best seven, the first thanks to his impressive firepower while the second one is always reliable when you need some strong defence.
To complete this dream team, Kadetten Schaffhausen centre-back Gabor Csaszar manages to find his way among the best. With 84 goals scored, he is the current top scorer at the moment and was a key element in his team.
BEST 7: De Vargas Moreno (GK), Gensheimer (LW), Tomas (RW), Sulic (Line), Csaszar (CB), Remili (RB), Ilic (LB)
HC Vardar, KS Vive Tauron Kielce, MOL-Pick Szeged, Rhein-Neckar Lowen, HC Meshkov Brest, HC Prvo plinarsko drustvo Zagreb, RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko, IFK Kristianstad
Kielce feature the most in group B’s best seven, while group winners HC Vardar have just one player. Is this the sign of a team relying more on collective power than on individual skill? Maybe, but Alex Dujshebaev shone throughout the first phase of the competition and was one of his team's main assets. Scoring 64 goals in total, he netted nine teams against Brest and twice eight times, against Kielce and Celje.
Title-holders Kielce have three players in this selection. The goalkeeper race was a tight one but, in the end, Filip Ivic emerges as the winner. For his first season in Poland, he did not let coach Talant Dujshebaev down. While it might not be Karol Bielecki's first season sporting the blue and yellow colours, he is still as effective as ever.
While some positions were more discussed than other, 100% of the voting experts chose Julen Aguinagalde as the best line player in group B. He was best scorer for his team with 71 goals and seems to be growing better as time goes by – but will that be enough for his to make it to Cologne once again?
In a team that ended third but sometimes disappointed, Andy Schmid was the one you could count on. Whether passing or shooting, the Rhein-Neckar Löwen centre back displayed the consistency some of his team-mates sometimes lacked.
Blaz Janc (Celje) and Jerry Tollbring (Kristianstad) might have seen their teams eliminated but that does not overshadow some brilliant performances. At such a young age, their presence among the best is clearly a sign that the VELUX EHF Champions League has got bright days ahead.
BEST 7: Ivic (GK), Tollbring (LW), Janc (RW), Aguinagalde (Line), Schmid (CB), Bielecki (LB), Dujshebaev (RB)
GROUPS C & D
Montpellier HB, Naturhouse La Rioja, HC Metalurg, TATRAN Presov, Elverum Handball, Chekhovskie Medvedi, HBC Nantes, HC Motor Zaporozhye, Besiktas Mogaz HT, Dinamo Bucuresti, TTH Holstebro, ABC/UMinho
With the two French sides qualifying through to the Last 16 at the weekend it is no surprise to find five players from Montpellier and Nantes in the best seven for the bottom groups.
Three of them come from Nantes, who finished first in group D (Nicolas Claire, David Balaguer, Cyril Dumoulin) and two wear the Montpellier jersey (Jure Dolenec, Ludovic Fabregas).
This meant it was hard for the other players to sneak in, but Filip Taleski and Magnus Bramming managed to do it.
With an average of more than seven goals a game, Bramming was one of the few highlights for Team Tvis Holstebro in their Champions League campaign. Scoring 10 goals or more twice in a game and nine twice, the focus was on him.
Filip Taleski, in his fourth season playing in the most prestigious handball club competition with Metalurg, he scored 13 in his first game against Elverum and the tone was set.
The defences might have been waiting for him afterwards but it did not stop him in the end, even though his personal performance was not enough for Metalurg to qualify for the play-offs.
BEST 7: Dumoulin (GK), Bramming (LW), Balaguer (RW), Claire (CB), Fabregas (Line), Taleski (LB), Dolenec (RB)
TEXT: Kevin Domas / amc