PREVIEW: HSV are out to complete their collection of European silverware while Skjern have sights set on a first continental final since 2003
History at stake for both sides
Will Skjern reach their first European final since 2003 or will Hamburg collect the only trophy missing from their cabinet?
Saturday’s first EHF Cup Semi-Final in Berlin will go some way to answering the big question heading into the EHF Cup Finals.
EHF Cup Semi-Final: Skjern Handbold (DEN) vs HSV Hamburg (GER)
The Danish side will be full of confidence, boasting a positive record against German clubs in this season’s competition, having been the only team to defeat EHF Cup Finals hosts Berlin before overcoming Melsungen in the quarter-final.
"It is a nice habit, we hope that this sequence will continue in the semi against Hamburg," said Skjern coach Ole Norgaard.
His team's success this term has not been limited to European competition, however.
Skjern have enjoyed a great domestic season too, having already won the Danish cup before moving within touching distance of the league final following a 31:25 semi-final first leg victory against Bjerringbro-Silkeborg.
Norgaard added: "Besides those national competitions it was one of our major goals to qualify for the EHF Cup Finals.
"Now we are in Berlin for the second time this year and having confidence and strength, we hope to take another step."
Skjern’s only previous European success came in the Challenge Cup, which they won in both 2002 and 2003.
Hamburg meanwhile have the same number of European trophies to their name, although their triumphs came in the 2007 Cup Winners’ Cup and the 2013 VELUX EHF Champions League.
"Only a rare number of clubs have the triple trophy in their cabinet, so this is an even higher motivation for us," said team captain Pascal Hens, who was part of both winning squads in 2007 and 2013.
But HSV have been hit hard by injuries in the lead up to the EHF Cup Finals, particularly in the wing positions.
Hans Lindberg has been ruled out after he suffered a serious kidney injury following a collision with Berlin goalkeeper Silvio Heinevetter. In addition, 2007 World Champion Stefan Schröder is also out for several weeks with a rupture in the sole of his foot.
HSV reacted swiftly in signing Swedish World Champion Johan Petersson, who had come out of retirement, but insists, "I am fit for this adventure".
The Swede boasts valuable experiences too, having won this competition with THW Kiel in 2003.
Hamburg were somewhat fortunate to progress as far as the group phase this season, only advancing on the away goals rule from their qualification round 3 meeting with Swedish side Kristianstad.
The German side fell to two more Scandinavian clubs, Haslum, in the group phase, and Guif, in the first leg of the quarter-final – perhaps a good omen for Skjern.
However, the Danish side’s only defeats have come against German opposition, Berlin, in the group phase, and Melsungen in their quarter-final first leg, so something has to give on Saturday.
TEXT: Björn Pazen / jh
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