Round 1a of the Euro Hockey League may be over, but we are still only half way through the league phase as EHL heads to Lille MHC in France for Round 1b. The action was thrilling in Amsterdam, and Lille is expected to be no different, as the teams in pools E, F, G and H aim to join the qualifiers from Amsterdam at KO16 at Easter. A total of 24 clubs from across Europe will have taken part in the two first round events of this pioneering competition, and on Sunday evening it will be known which of these elite teams will be in the draw for Round 2.
Here we take a look at the teams competing, as the sides in Pools E, F, G and H aim for a top two finish to progress into the next round.
Pool E: Reading HC (ENG), H.C. Rotterdam (NED), Western Wildcats (SCO)
Team to watch: H.C. Rotterdam
Pool E is likely to be a closely fought contest, as English champions Reading HC face Dutch side H.C. Rotterdam and Western Wildcats of Scotland. H.C. Rotterdam were looking like potential winners of the tournament last season, but were hit by a large number of injuries before the semi-finals took place at their home stadium. They were defeated by fellow Dutch side HGC, but re-grouped to defeat Club Egara to claim third place. The two teams from the United Kingdom will certainly offer stern opposition for the famous Dutch club.
Pool F: Kelburne HC (SCO), East Grinstead (ENG), Waterloo Ducks (BEL)
Team to watch: East Grinstead
Like Pool E, Pool F features two sides from the United Kingdom. Scottish champions Kelburne HC will face English runners up East Grinstead as well as the mighty Waterloo Ducks from Belgium. All three teams are currently in terrific form, but only two sides can reach the second round. Kelburne are the current champions of Scotland, but have lost inspirational midfielder Niall Stott to 2007-08 EHL winners Uhlenhorster of Germany. Waterloo Ducks are also strong, but many are tipping English runner’s up East Grinstead to get through, with current Great Britain midfielder Glenn Kirkham their star man.
Pool G: RC Polo de Barcelona (ESP), UHC Hamburg (GER), Lille MHC (FRA)
Team to watch: UHC Hamburg (Uhlenhorster)
Host club Lille MHC have been drawn in arguably the toughest group in the entire first round, facing Spanish giants Real Club de Polo de Barcelona and 2007-08 Euro Hockey League champions Uhlenhorster. Despite the tough group, Lille MHC only have to look at the achievements last year of fellow French side St Germain, who proved that anything is possible when they finished ahead of the then European champions Crefelder HTC of Germany in the pool phase.
Pool H: Atletic Terrassa (ESP), KHC Leuven (BEL), Three Rock Rovers (IRE)
Team to watch: Atletic Terrassa
Atletic Terrassa HC will be aiming to defeat Belgium’s KHC Leuven and Three Rock Rovers of Ireland in their bid for European glory this season. Three Rock Rovers will be their first opponents, with the two teams meeting on Friday at 16.30hrs local time. Atletic will be clear favourites for the group, but the teams from Belgium and Ireland are hoping to cause a huge upset.
Round 1a took place at Amsterdam H&BC in The Netherlands last weekend, and featured some incredible performances by some of the world's best players including Teun de Nooijer, Jamie Dwyer, Pol Amat and Santi Freixa. The first rounds of the Euro Hockey League are being televised by various stations, with many matches being aired live. A full broadcast and fixtures schedule is available on the Euro Hockey League website. The website also features live match streaming throughout the weekend, allowing you to catch all of the day’s action on your computer screen.
For more information, please visit Euro Hockey League’s new interactive website: www.ehlhockey.tv.