With handball temporarily suspended in Latvia and Lithuania, Estonia will take the centre stage in the coming weekend. All four participating clubs will play twice in matches, that have double importance – points will go into Baltic Handball League table, as well as to the Estonian championship standings.
Serviti Põlva has a chance of moving top of the table in BHL, as currently ZRHK Tenax Dobele are ahead due to the better goal difference with both teams on ten points. The weekend will be opened with the local El Clasico, as Serviti visits HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper on Saturday afternoon.
Mart Raudsepp: Serviti has been recently very strong
Kehra and Serviti – who share 25 Estonian titles between the two of them – last time met in Põlva in early September and Serviti came out on top 26:24. It has been almost a year since they played in Kehra for the last time and in December 2019 shared the points in a league match with a 28:28 draw.
“We have not played Kehra for several months and back then they did not have the two new Russian players [Artem Bush and Danil Gumianov]. So it will be very interesting to compare our current strength again. Especially as European matches are two weeks away,” commented Serviti’s head coach Kalmer Musting.
The EHF European Cup draw this week put Serviti against a former Champions’ Cup winner HC Dukla Praha, who have an ex-Serviti player among their ranks – right-back Martin Grištšuk. On Wednesday, Serviti had an “easy day in the office”, as they kept their unbeaten domestic record with a 40:17 win over Raasiku/Mistra.
Kehra’s incredible home run against Estonian opponents came to an end last week. Having been unbeaten for 19 home games in all competitions, Kehra lost to former BHL participant Tallinn 30:25, but head coach Mart Raudsepp is determined to start new series of positive results on Saturday.
“Serviti has been recently very strong. Ahead of European games and cup Final Four their form has clearly gone up. We have to learn from our mistakes against Tallinn and improve to get a result,” said Raudsepp, who on Sunday will take his team to play SK Tapa/N.R. Energy away.
Tapa and Viljandi hungry for points
Tapa has not played a home game for two months and in general the international break, followed with a self-isolation for Estonian national team players left the team without matches for 38 days. Since coming back, Tapa beat Põlva/Arcwood in a cup game and lost on Wednesday to Tallinn.
“The long break did us no good of course and a good form was lost. Against Arcwood the defence worked well, but on Wednesday it disappeared. We need to play our own game and keep to the agreed plan, only then winning against Viljandi and Kehra will not be an impossible task,” commented Elmu Koppelmann, the head coach of Tapa.
“In some ways we have our back against the wall, as points are needed in both competitions – BHL and Estonian league,” added Koppelmann. Tapa has just two points in BHL and have dropped to fifth place in the domestic league with four points from eight games.
Viljandi is visiting Tapa on Saturday after their first match this season ending with a narrow 29:28 victory back in September. The day later Viljandi will host Serviti, which will incredibly be already the fifth encounter in all competitions this season. So far, Viljandi have lost all of them and Serviti has a 12-game winning run in the head-to-head games.
“It gives us an extra motivation, when the points count in two competitions. And we are going with a plan to take maximum points this weekend, there is no reason to set lower targets. We need to get our concentration and team spirit right in order to achieve that,” admits Viljandi’s head coach Marko Koks.
On photo: SK Tapa/N.R. Energy will host HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper on Sunday in a match of double importance. (Photo: Helin Potter).