HC Leipzig aiming for Group Matches spot
The record-breaking women’s champions of Germany, HC Leipzig have the chance to qualify for the Group Matches in this season’s Women’s EHF Champions League.
Despite missing out on all titles and finals last season, HC Leipzig are one of three participants of the Wild Card Tournament this weekend, where they face host Issy (France) and Zvezda Zvenigorod (Russia) – but only the winner of this tournament in Issy-les-Moulineaux will book a ticket for the next stage.
"A lot of our fans will travel and support us in Paris," said HCL manager Kay-Sven Hähner, for whom reaching the Group Matches for the fourth time in five years would be "the icing on the cake" after a season, in which his club was eliminated three times in semi-finals – in the EHF Cup Winners’ Cup, the German championship and the German cup.
In an interview with www.ehfCL.com Leipzig goalkeeper and team captain Katja Schülke talks about their chances, hopes and the pressure they are under.
ehfCL.com: Are you satisfied with the start to your season?
Katja Schülke: Of course, we won our first two matches in the German League and I believe we are well-prepared for the tournament.
ehfCL.com: How do you rate preparations for this season?
Katja Schülke: We have had ups, like our victory against the Hungarian national team, and downs like our performance at a tournament in Poland, but in general I am satisfied. The most important fact is that all players – including me and our Dutch playmaker Maura Visser – have recovered from injuries and we are fit.
ehfCL.com: What was the reaction of the team, when you found out you had a late chance to qualify for the Group Matches of the EHF Women’s Champions League?
Katja Schülke: We were very happy, as it is always our aim to compete with the best – and this is why we love to play in the EHF Champions League, the best competition ever. We have a great will and passion to win the tournament in Paris, we want to grab our chance, as this is a great opportunity for us and the club.
ehfCL.com: Are Leipzig the favourites?
Katja Schülke: Actually, we are the underdogs. Zvezda is under pressure, they must win. We can win, and if not, we still play international handball in the Cup Winners’ Cup. Of course we will give it our best shot to win, but the pressure is on Zvezda not on Leipzig. We can only proceed to the Group Matches if we give more than 100 per cent.
ehfCL.com: Is this opportunity to play at the Wild Card Tournament a consolation for the past season without a title?
Katja Schülke: No, we have put last season behind us. This tournament belongs to the new season, and the new season is a chance for us to be more successful. We failed three times in the semis, so we hope that our chance of Champions League handball is a signal. To compete in this competition will be a great chance to learn - for the club, the team and every single player. We can develop and improve by playing in international matches – this is what we want to hope for this weekend.
Find more information on HC Leipzig here
TEXT: Björn Pazen