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27.09.2007, 11:20
German teams: Top stars injured
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Hard times for the four the Germans: just before the start, key players are injured. Filip Jicha (Kiel), Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson (Gummersbach), Blazenko Lackovic (Flensburg) or Guillaume Gille will miss the first games of the competition.
 

German teams: Top stars injured

It’s the first time that four German clubs will play in the Champions League. Gummersbach, ranked fourth in the last Bundesliga were especially grateful to Kiel for winning the final and guaranteeing an additional place for the German sides.  

The German teams dominated last year - Kiel played the final against FlensburgThe four German clubs have one objective before the start of the forthcoming season: To reach the second group phase. But right before the first international matches, the alarm is ringing – many severe and long-term injuries cause difficulties.

Eurohandball.com gives an overview of the four German CL at the start of the Champions League 

THW Kiel

The reigning champion started well in the Bundesliga, won the first five matches and the German Super Cup. Then they lost Saturday’s the derby in Flensburg. They did not only lose the match, but also the top spot in the Bundesliga and – even worse – new player, Filip Jicha. The Czech backcourt player – THW paid 400,000 Euro to TBV Lemgo for him – suffered a knee injury after falling on the floor. He was operated on Tuesday and he will not be able to play for the next four months.  

As all the other players – except for hip injured German national player, Christian Zeitz – are fit, Kiel are the favourites in their group with Montpellier, Hammarby and Constanta.

Karabatic is not nervous before the group stage“We have to show respect, but it’s possible to win all the games,” said last year’s top scorer Nikola Karabatic.  

Manager, Uwe Schwenker, reminded: “Our objective is another triple.”

Champions League is very special in Kiel – for the spectators. Last season people waited 20 hours (not) to get a ticket for the final against Flensburg. The club this season made a special package: only the spectators, who bought tickets for the first group phase will be able to get tickets for the later matches. Within three days, THW sold all 9000 combi-tickets, the hall will be sold out at every match – only 1,000 tickets for the guest team’s spectators can be sold for the matches.  

THW will start their 11th season in the Champions League. Top player, Nikola Karabatic, is – after his successes last season – just as great star as the other top athletes: on Monday he was invited for a photo shooting by adidas together with football stars such as Michael Balack, Kaka and Zinedine Zidane.

SG Flensburg

It’s party time again in Flenburg: similarly to Kiel, nearly all ticket for the first group phase are sold out for the Campushalle. Ciudad Real, Lublin and Drammen will meet last season’s the runner-up. And the party started last Saturday, when Flensburg have beaten Kiel to take over on the Bundesliga league table with 11 points (5 victories, 1 draw, no defeat). The self-confidence is solid and the hopes are high at the Northernmost CL club of Germany.

Flensburg start the group stage with a difficult game a self-confidence“With this victory we step on court with our heads raised against Ciudad Real,” said manager Anders Dahl-Nielsen.

However, injuries struck Flensburg more than Kiel: three key players will not be able to return to the first CL match. German national player, Frank von Behren, has a broken thumb; Croatian World Champion, Blazenko Lackovic, out with knee problems; Danish wing, Sören Stryger, had just been operated.

“Frank and Blazenko will be back at the beginning of October, Sören will take longer to recover,” said SG spokesperson Zita Newerla to Eurohandball.com. But despite this, Flensburg are – in their fifth CL season with two lost finals in 2004 and 2007 – good candidates for the second group phase. And 100 spectators will get something special at the first match: a specially created, official CL scarf of Flensburg.

VfL Gummersbach

Sigurdsson is out - he will be missing for VflIn the 70’s and 80’s Gummersbach – small town near Cologne – was the ruling team in whole Europe. After years of depression, VfL are back on track in the Champions League. Last season they were knocked out by Valladolid in a quarterfinal full of tension. This season the situation is quite more different for the team of the Icelandic national coach, Alfred Gislasson.  

Two of three most important players of last season will not play for Gummersbach any more. Frenchman, Daniel Narcisse, who was top scorer and playmaker signed for Chambery. After the EHF decision, his contract is valid.

Gummersbach took a two new playmakers, Russian Oleg Kuleschow and French Geoffroy Krantz . They still need time to get integrated into the team. Accordingly, Gummersbach lost the first two home matches in the Toyota-Bundesliga against Mannheim and Flensburg, but now they seemed to improve. VfL are currently ranked fifth in the league.  

On Sunday came the shock: “Iceland Air” will miss the next four month. Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson suffered a shoulder injury and he must be operated on Monday. So the VfL will have to play without their “leader” and the player who runs the most successful fastbreaks in the whole league.

As if they would have known about this injury, Gummersbach signed former German national player, Adrian Wagner before the season. Gislasson has to change his tactics and he has to hope that Momir Illic will keep scoring.  

Coach Gislasson remains confidentSigurdsson still hopes to travel to Reykjavik, as his mother will cook for the team and the players will get a special Sigurdsson sightseeing tour.

Some other players, Illic and goalkeeper Nándor Fazekas will meet old friends in the first group phase – as their opponents are Veszprém (former club of Fazekas) and Celje (former club of Illic and Vedran Zrnic).  

“This is the hardest group of all, but I hope we will be able to make it to the second round,” says Gislasson, whose team will play all the matches at the Kölnarena this season. Vfl expect 8,000 to 10,000 spectators a game.

HSV Hamburg 

First time in the “king’s class”: for Hamburg (currently ranked third in Germany) the Champions League is a real adventure. Some players such as Pascal Hens, Torsten Jansen and goalkeeper Jogi Bitter won World Championship in February, but did not play in the CL before. The club that played European Cup in 2004 for the first time and won Cup Winners’ Cup in 2007, is about to prepare everything for the start. The team received special shirts with numbers printed in gold for the special event.

First ever CL season for HSV, but they have stars for this levelTwo other players made their own preparation for the first match against Viborg: goalkeeper Per Sandström and Swiss Iwan Ursic received skating lessons by “Holiday on Ice” on Monday.

However, a highly motivated player might not be able to join the adventure: Danish international Hans Lindbergh suffered a foot injury just before the match against his former club, Viborg. Lindbergh, who scored 33 goals in five Bundesliga matches, wants to fight:  

“I will try everything to play against my old friends,” he said.

HSV playmaker, Guillaume Gille, will not play in the next matches due to a torn muscle in his leg. But he maybe able to “Go East” – as Hamburg have two matches far away in the East in Checkov and Zaporozhye.  

“It’s not only far, but hard work there. We play against strong teams with a lot of experience, but I hope we will be at least second and make it to the second round,” said manager Christian Fitzek after the draw.


TEXT: Björn Pazen
 
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