20220916 MOTW Feature Bietigheim Szikora Main
EHF Champions League

Szikora: “Playing EHF Champions League is much more challenging”

MAL7445 V EHF / Björn Pazen

For six years, Melinda Szikora was playing for FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria. On Sunday, the Hungarian international – now between the posts at SG BBM Bietigheim – will face her former club for the first time in the Match of the Week of round 2 of the EHF Champions League Women 2022/23.

After both sides won their openers last weekend, Sunday’s MOTW (live on EHFTV at 14:00 CEST) is already a crucial duel in the race for the play-off spots.

“We are in a good form at the moment. We know FTC well, and of course I have many emotions after playing such a long time for this club,” Melinda Szikora told eurohandball.com.

Szikora and Bietigheim are eager to extend their incredible winning run, as they are aiming for their 60th straight victory across all competitions.

“This series is really unbelievable. We did not lose any single match last season but playing EHF Champions League is of a different level and much more challenging,” the goalkeeper said.

“Probably we will lose some games in this tough group, but I don’t hope we lose many games – and especially not on Sunday. I am totally proud of what we achieved in the last 12 months.”

In 2013-19, Szikora wore the FTC shirt before moving to Hungarian league rivals Siófok KC. In her first season with her new club, they made it all the way to the inaugural final at the EHF Finals Women 2021 – but lost against Nantes.

The following year, Szikora made the final of the EHF European League again, this time with Bietigheim. They defeated hosts Viborg HK with a stunning performance in the final.

“We really had two tough matches in the final tournament against two Danish teams. But we did not only win both, we also took a lot of experience and confidence from this trophy. We now need both in the EHF Champions League,” Szikora said.

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In the three years following her departure from the club, FTC have changed in many positions, mainly prior to the current season. Experienced top players like Andrea Lekic, Dragan Cvijic, Beatrice Edwige, and Zsuzsanna Tomori have arrived at the club.

“Their bench is much wider compared to last season, but having so many stars can become dangerous if they complain they do not have that much playing time they had hoped for,” Szikora said about her former club.

Though she was part of FTC for a long time, she didn’t think Bietigheim head coach Markus Gaugisch would need her advice on the team.

“He is a clever coach, always perfectly prepared on the next opponent. I do not need to guide him for the MOTW,” Szikora said.

“We only have to reduce the number of stupid mistakes and do not give too many balls away. Then we have a chance to win.”

20220916 MOTW Feature Bietigheim Szikora Quote (1)
This series is really unbelievable. We did not lose any single match last season but playing EHF Champions League is of a different level and much more challenging. Probably we will lose some games in this tough group, but I don’t hope we lose many games – and especially not on Sunday. I am totally proud of what we achieved in the last 12 months.
Melinda Szikora
SG BBM Bietigheim

As a goalkeeper, Szikora’s main focus is on the FTC attack, and she singled out two former German Bundesliga stars as the core players.

“Emily Bölk with her long-distance shots and Angela Malestein with her zero-angle shots from the wing are the driving forces of FTC. But in general, we should always focus on us, not on the opponents.”

Malestein played for Bietigheim in the past, but never was a teammate of Szikora’s, as the Dutch international left the club in the season before the Hungarian goalkeeper arrived.

Szikora is sharing her position between the posts with Brazilian teammate Gabriela Moreschi, calling it a perfect combination.

“On top level, you need two strong goalkeepers, not just one. And we are completely different: one is tall, the other small, which is the perfect combination. Markus Gaugisch always finds the right balance of playing time for us. As we have so many matches, you cannot always play for 60 minutes,” Szikora said.

20220916 MOTW Feature Bietigheim Szikora Full Width 2

Playing EHF Champions League on the weekends and Bundesliga on Wednesdays until the start of the Women’s EHF EURO 2022 on 4 November makes for a tough schedule for Bietigheim.

“We need to focus on the Bundesliga as well, as we want to qualify for the EHF Champions League again next season,” Szikora said.

If Bietigheim return to the top flight again in 2023/24, they will do so without their current coach. Gaugisch also took over the Germany national team in April 2022, and he will fully focus on that task after the current 2022/23 season.

“We are all professionals, but of course, we have this fact in the back of our minds. There is no need to gift him with some trophies or top results: we are all ambitious,” said Szikora, who was full of praise for her coach.

“Markus is such a creative coach with good ideas, a smart guy, probably the best coach I have ever had in my career. He always knows how to push us to the limit and to work hard with us. So, there is no need for extra motivation.”

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