Women’s Champions League Power rankings: Selby ranks the teams

The play-offs and quarter-finals of the Women’s Champions League are almost here. Ola Selby of GoHandball ranks the 12 teams.

Power rankings are our ranking of which of the teams have been the hottest so far. A team that has lost one game can be considered a better team than a team that has gone undefeated. It’s all about the quality of the teams.

Here are the Power rankings – Ola Selby’s ranking of the play-offs, and quarter-finals teams in the Women’s Champions League. And by the way, here are the play-offs match-ups:

FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria – Brest Bretagne

Krim Mercator Ljubljana – CSM Bucuresti

DVSC Schaeffler – Vipers Kristiansand

SG BBM Bietigheim – Ikast Håndbold

1: Györi Audi ETO KC

Group phase: 11 wins, 1 draw, 2 losses.

Stine Bredal Oftedal of Györi. Photo: Nikola Krstic / BILDBYRÅN

It’s hard to place any other team than the Hungarian powerhouse at number 1. The only team that only lost 2 games during the group phase (at home against CSM Bucuresti and away against DVSC Schaeffler) and it’s not strange at all considering the quality of the squad.

Györi has world-class players at every position, and at most positions, they have several top players. Just consider the pivot position where Linn Blohm, one of the best players in the world, often is the third option behind Kari Brattset Dale and Yvette Broch.

Györi are the team to beat this season, no doubt about it. And I am saying that even though there seems to be som turmoil after the sacking of head coach Ulrik Kirkely in March.

2: Team Esbjerg

Group phase: 11 wins, 3 losses.

Henny Reistad. Photo: Petter Arvidson / BILDBYRÅN

The strength of the squad in Esbjerg is not at the same level as Györi, and maybe not as Metz. But what Team Esbjerg has is Henny Reistad and Nora Mork. Henny Reistad is the best player in the world, and Nora Mork still puts on her best performances at the biggest stage.

The duo combined for 155 goals during the group phase, and fellow Norwegian Katrine Breistol added 70 goals to that. So to sum up: Jesper Jensen does not have as many top players as Györi has, but Esbjerg has Reistad.

A top performance from Reistad at the Final Four and Esbjerg could very well win the whole thing this year.

3: Metz Handball

Group phase: 11 wins, 3 losses.

Kristina Jörgensen of Denmark. Photo: Jesper Zerman / BILDBYRÅN

I can’t say that she came from nowhere, but the development of Sarah Boukit this season has been extraordinary. The pivot is the top scorer in the Women’s Champions League this season, scoring 89 goals during the group phase. She is unstoppable when she gets the ball and also a great scorer from 7 meters out.

But Boukit is not alone in this team. On the contrary, Metz perhaps has the best player so far during this Champions League season in Katrine Jörgensen. The left back has scored 78 goals so far, and combine that with her 65 assists and you can see why a lot of experts believe that she is a top 5 player in the world right now.

Metz can win it all, but if they miss out on the medals it would be a disappointment.

4: Odense Håndbold

Group phase: 10 wins, 1 draw, 3 losses.

Mie Højlund. Photo: Mathilda Ahlberg / BILDBYRÅN

Am I underrating Odense? Maybe. But it’s hard to place the Danish team ahead of Györi, Esbjerg, and Metz. They are up there and can bring home a medal, but I feel they lack a bit of quality compared to those 3 sides.

Sure, they have a great goalkeeper duo in Althea Reinhardt and Yara Ten Holte. And sure, Dione Housheer and Mie Hojlund can tear apart any defense in the world, but I still feel that Odense has some ways to go if they should be able to defeat any of the top 3 teams this season.

5: Vipers Kristiansand

Group phase: 7 wins, 1 draw, 6 losses.

Anna Vyakhireva. Photo: Daniel Stiller / BILDBYRÅN

6 losses in 14 games and still ranked as the 5th best team in the Women’s Champions League? To be clear: I am not Norwegian. But remember: 5 of those 6 losses came in the first 9 games. In the final games of the group phase, the 3 time reigning champions won 4 and only lost one.

My point? This is not the same Vipers that started the season poorly. This is a team where Anna Vyakhireva, Jamina Roberts, and Lois Abbingh are dominating. This is a team where Katrine Lunde is waiting for the big games in the Champions League. And this is a team that knows how to win.

6: Ikast Håndbold

Group phase: 10 wins, 1 draw, 3 losses.

Marketa Jerabkova, Czech Republic and Ikast HB. Photo: Petter Arvidson / BILDBYRÅN.

Ikast defeated Vipers twice during the group phase, beating them 30–26 at home in the opener, and 32–31 in Kristiansand in the final game of the group stage. Yet I rank them below Vipers. Why I did that I have already explained above, and to be clear it has nothing to do with Ikast. Only about the quality of Vipers in these situations.

Ikast however has impressed me a lot this season. Irma Schjött was a steal from Thüringer, the Swedish goalkeeper has been one of the best in the Champions League this season. And don’t sleep on Marketa Jerabkova and Ingvild Bakkerud – shot power at its finest.

Ikast can surprise some people, but it will probably end for them in the quarter-finals.

7: CSM București

Group phase: 8 wins, 1 draw, 5 losses.

Cristina Neagu. Photo: Fredrik Varfjell / BILDBYRÅN

I don’t believe that anyone thought differently, but this is still Cristina Neagu’s team. And she still dominates, game after game. 72 goals and 62 assists during the group phase tell me that few players are more important for their team than Neagu is for CSM.

Sure, Adrian Vasile has a great team with players like Laura Flippes and Grace Zaadi, but if the Romanian team is to make it to the Final Four then Neagu needs to outperform herself.

8: Brest Bretagne Handball

Group phase: 7 wins, 3 draws, 4 losses.

Pauletta Foppa. Photo: Petter Arvidson / BILDBYRÅN

Brest should make it past the play-offs and into the quarter-finals, but does this team have more to give than that? Unlikely. They won 7 games in the group phase and only lost against Györi, Odense, Bietigheim, and DVSC Schaeffler. And in the last 8 games they went undefeated.

So Brest is a great team, I am not saying anything else. But they are not at the level of the first 5 teams in these Power rankings. I would rank them at the about same level as Ikast and CSM. And that’s not bad, not at all.

A lot will be decided for the French side based on the performances of Valeriia Maslova (85 goals in the group phase), and Pauletta Foppa. The latter is still the best pivot in the world and she has the potential to carry coach Pablo Morel’s team for the remainder of the competition.

9: SG BBM Bietigheim

Group phase: 7 wins, 7 losses.

Karolina Kudlacz-Gloc. Photo: Ludvig Thunman / BILDBYRÅN

Karolina Kudłacz-Gloc, Inger Smits, Kelly Dulfer, Gabriela Goncalves. There is no shortage of great players in Jakob Vestergaards Bundesliga team. Kudłacz-Gloc had 110 points during the group phase and will need to perform even better if Bietigheim is to defeat Ikast and make it past the play-offs and into the quarter-finals.

This is a great team, but also a team that lost 7 games during the group phase. That tells me that Bietigheim can beat anyone, but also lose against anyone. While that quality can be great to have during elimination games, it also makes it hard to bet on this team when the opposition levels up.

10: DVSC Schaeffler

Group phase: 7 wins, 1 draw, 6 losses.

Petra Vamos. Photo: Michael Erichsen / BILDBYRÅN

Speaking of high potential, Zoltan Szilagyi has in his hands a team that can go head-to-head with the best of them. The Hungarians defeated teams like Brest, Bietigheim, and Györi during the group phase. Sure, the win against Györi came when Györi had nothing to play for, but still.

The problem for Schaeffler? They have had problems against the big teams. 4 out of their 7 wins came against IK Sävehof and Buducnost, the weakest teams in the group. And now the opponents simply are a lot better than that.

Look out for especially 2 players in this team: left back Greta Kacsor (67 goals during the group phase), and playmaker Petra Vamos.

11: Krim Mercator Ljubljana

Group phase: 6 wins, 1 draw, 7 losses.

Jovanka Radicevic. Photo: Ludvig Thunman / BILDBYRÅN

Dragan Adzic is an experienced coach and in his team there are several experienced players. Daria Dmitrieva (67 goals in the group phase) is still a top player in the world (although a bit forgotten due to obvious reasons), and on the wings, he has Tamara Mavsar and Jovanka Radicevic.

That alone makes me wonder if placing Krim as the “second worst team” is a mistake. Radicevic can score with her eyes closed and Krim can be a tough nut to crack in Slovenia. But it’s still hard for me to make arguments for Krim when it comes to placing them higher in the Power rankings.

12: FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria

Group phase: 4 wins, 2 draws, 8 losses.

Katrin Klujber. Photo: Mathilda Ahlberg / BILDBYRÅN.

I guess that FTC’s ambitions this season were higher then just making it past the group phase of the Champions League. But that is what happened. The Hungarians finished just one point ahead of Rapid Bucuresti after only winning 4 out of 14 games.

But they are not without quality. They defeated Ikast, Rapid Bucuresti, and Lubin twice during the group stage. And with players like Beatrice Edwige, Katrin Klujber, Emily Bölk, and Angela Malestein in the team they can achieve great things in the play-offs.

But considering their performances in the group phase I have to rank them 12 in the Power rankings, even though they “should” be a better team than Krim and DVSC.