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22.08.2017, 17:50
Leading Bundesliga trio to face more challenges
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FEATURE: While Champions League participants Flensburg, Kiel and Löwen were quiet on the transfer market, their continued dominance in the German domestic league might not be guaranteed

»EHF CL Channel »2017-18 Men's News
»
 

Leading Bundesliga trio to face more challenges

In the past five seasons the German Bundesliga has always had the same three teams – in different constellations – at the top: THW Kiel, Rhein-Neckar Löwen and SG Flensburg-Handewitt.

Kiel are the record champions, but Löwen have topped the league in 2016 and 2017 while Flensburg have earned themselves the nickname of ‘eternal runners-up.’

The last time a different team made it into the top three was in 2012, when Füchse Berlin finished third.

Now the EHF Cup 2015 winners and 2017 finalists are part of another trio that could challenge the ‘usual suspects.’ Apart from Berlin, SC Magdeburg and MT Melsungen are expected to hunt the leading trio of Löwen, Flensburg ad Kiel.

Different to past seasons the top three teams did not sign big names this time. On the contrary, Löwen lost their mastermind Kim Ekdahl du Rietz, Flensburg their coach Ljubomir Vranjes, and Kiel will have to wait some more months for ‘boss’ Domagoj Duvnjak will return from patella surgery.

“Other teams are rather the favourites than we are,” Löwen coach Nikolaj Jacobsen says. On Wednesday 23 August, league champions Löwen will face cup winners Kiel for the first showdown of the season, the Super Cup in Stuttgart.

The Bundesliga already starts the following day. Sky, who is the TV partner of the VELUX EHF Champions League, has also become the new TV partner of the Bundesliga. As a result, the structure of match days has been adapted with games now being played on Thursday night and Sunday around noon. Another change is that just two teams will be relegated to the second division.

Talking about changes, MT Melsungen grabbed most of the headlines in the off-season. The club that reached the EHF Cup 2015 Quarter-finals upon their international debut have signed Tobias Reichmann, in 2016 winner of both the VELUX EHF Champions League and the EHF EURO, from Kielce. Two more European champions followed: Finn Lemke and Julius Kühn.

“We want to fight for another international spot. The expectation is huge, but we will cope with the pressure,” says Reichmann. Last season, Melsungen finished seventh so they are the top side in the Bundesliga not playing in any European competition.

Berlin and Magdeburg, the first German club to win the Champions League in 2002, are appearing in the EHF Cup again, just like defending champions Frisch Auf Göppingen. Both Berlin and Magdeburg made it to the LIQUI MOLY EHF Cup Finals in May and their squads haven’t changed much over the summer. They were already the main hunters of Löwen, Kiel and Flensburg last season as they finished fourth and fifth.

In regard to new coaches, all eyes will be on two clubs: Flensburg and Hannover-Burgdorf.

After 11 years, Ljubomir Vranjes has left Flensburg to join Veszprém and the Hungarian national team. His previous assistant Maik Machulla will take over.

However, the biggest coup occurred in Hannover, a team that was nearly relegated from the Bundesliga last season. First, they signed top stars like Pavel Atman (Brest) or Ilija Brozovic (Kiel). Then, as a coach they got six-time Champions League winner Carlos Antonio Ortega, who previously worked with Veszprém and Kolding. He will be assisted by former Champions League and EHF Cup winner Iker Romero.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ew
 
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