The Final Four participants of the 2020/2021 Baltic Handball League season are clear before the last weekend of the regular season. But there is still a lot to play for in the seven matches on Saturday and Sunday. No team in the top four can be sure, who they are going to meet in next weekend’s semi-finals.
VHC Šviesa Vilnius has secured the win of the regular season, having 38 points. Serviti Põlva follows with 33, Varsa-Stronglasas Alytus with 32 and HC Dragunas Klaipeda with 31 points. Dragunas and Serviti have two games left, Varsa only one. Interestingly, Serviti will go head-to-head with the sides from Alytus and Vilnius this weekend.
Arturas Juškenas: we are searching the cup-winning level
Šviesa is so far having a great season, having lost only once in domestic and Baltic leagues. That sole defeat came surprisingly from the hands of SK Tapa/N.R. Energy back in September. Saturday’s scheduled match against Tapa was cancelled due to COVID-19 outbreak in Estonian team.
Returning to BHL after almost 30 years absence, Varsa-Stronglasas has secured a place in the Final Four, but still has chances to climb up to second place. They host Serviti on Saturday, having lost 26:19 away in September. Varsa returned to winning ways in domestic league last Saturday, beating Granitas-Karys Kaunas and finishing the regular season third.
The only Lithuanian team having reached BHL’s Final Four during last four seasons, HC Dragunas Klaipeda can also move up to second place, but can still remain fourth if their trip to Estonia proves unsuccessful. Back in September, Dragunas beat both HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper and Viljandi HC at home.
“We are not thinking about Final Four just yet. Semi-final opponent is not clear and we do not have the luxury to choose, who we are going to meet. So it is much more important to concentrate on the task in hand and that is two games away against strong Estonian sides,” commented Dragunas’ head coach Arturas Juškenas.
“Kehra has some players missing, but especially in the first match I expect very strong opposition, as Viljandi is a team with great character. We have not been playing well in recent weeks and are searching the level we showed when winning the Lithuanian Cup back in February,” added Juškenas.
Serviti using the weekend to prepare for the Final Four
After Tapa’s trip to Lithuania was cancelled, Serviti lost their – although very slim – chance to overtake Šviesa. Head coach of the recent quarter-finalist of the EHF European Cup, Kalmer Musting did not believe in miracles: “It would have been very difficult anyway, so we are just going to concentrate on our own matches and see where we end up.”
“In any case, Final Four will bring two very tough matches, no matter who the opponent. So we will not look in the table and rather use the weekend as a preparation for next week’s final tournament. Andris Celminš is ruled out for the rest of the season and we are nursing some other minor injuries, but we will travel with a strong squad,” assured Musting.
Two Estonian sides also host Granitas-Karys Kaunas over the weekend and are locked in a fight, who will finish higher. Granitas starts the weekend with 26 points, as HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper and Viljandi HC have two points less, plus Lithuanians hold an overall advantage of having won the home games against both sides.
Having missed much of the season and their results against neighbours being awarded in favour of the Estonian and Lithuanian clubs, four Latvian sides occupy the bottom four places. Last weekend HK Ogre took the first win of the season by beating SK Latgols Ludza 40:27 and climbing above the defeated opponent in the league table.
On Saturday, the top two Latvian sides will clash in Dobele, as ZRHK Tenax host Celtnieks Riga. The match counts also in the Latvian championships, so there is much at stake. In case of a three-goal win, Celtnieks can even overtake Tenax in the BHL standings. Though, ninth and tenth were not the positions, the teams were planned to fight for this season.
On photo: True spirit of BHL – players from all three countries in one picture. Rosvaldas Ramunis and Karolis Antanavičius from Šviesa, Arturs Meikšans and Henri Hiiend from Serviti will clash again on the final day of the regular season. (Photo: VHC Šviesa).