With unchanged squad, Kiel eye trophy again
With almost the same squad as last season, THW Kiel aim for their next journey to the EHF FINAL4 in Cologne. The four-time EHF Champions League winners lifted the 2019/20 trophy in December but failed to go all the way again in their 2020/21 campaign just a few months later.
Kiel put high hopes on the comeback of Nikola Bilyk, who returned after missing the full season with a knee injury.
- Kiel snatched the Bundesliga title with a draw at Rhein-Neckar Löwen in the final round, edging SG Flensburg-Handewitt for the first place on goal difference
- Filip Jicha, who starts his third season as head coach, became the first person to win the EHF FINAL4 as coach (2020) and as player (2010, 2012)
- Kiel lost to Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-final of the 2020/21 season
- Kiel goalkeeper Niklas Landin made the All-star Team in the past two seasons; playing together with his brother Magnus he won silver with Denmark at the 2020 Olympic Games
- Kiel’s starting seven have not changed compared to last season
- after 10 months out with a knee injury, Austrian left back Nikola Bilyk is back
Main question: Which impact will the return of fans have for THW Kiel?
The arena in Kiel used to be sold out for all Bundesliga and most Champions League matches of THW, with the fans creating an atmosphere like in Veszprém or Kielce. The pandemic changed all that and Kiel became the first Champions League winners in an empty arena in Cologne. Now Kiel are prepared to host up to 9,000 fans per match again. “We are like actors, we need this stage, we need to have this normality,” said coach Filip Jicha.
Under the spotlight: Nikola Bilyk
At the age of 18, he was the youngest player at the World Championship 2015 in Qatar. He received offers from several top clubs, and Austria’s Nikola Bilyk decided to join THW Kiel in 2016. He has developed into a world-class player since but was stopped when he tore knee ligaments in August 2020 – right after Lukas Nilsson had left the club. Now, Bilyk is back and he can become a formidable duo with Sander Sagosen, though the 24-year-old Austrian will need some time to get back to his old level.
How they rate themselves
Manager Viktor Szilagyi welcomes the return of the fans in the stands. “After a long season without the special atmosphere of handball, we yearn for supporters and the high-energy vibe of the stands. Our goal on the court is always to reach the EHF FINAL4 in Cologne. It is the biggest showcase for top club handball in Europe and the world. We just missed it last season so our wish to compete in Cologne is even bigger this season.”
Domagoj Duvnjak, who is one of the three captains alongside Niklas Landin and Patrick Wiencek, is looking forward to return to his former club HC PPD Zagreb in his native Croatia again. “They have strengthened their squad with some very experienced players. Also, I am really looking forward to the matches versus Elverum. It is always great to face a new opponent and I know that our supporters love opponents from the Scandinavian side.”
Did you know?
THW Kiel are the only club which beat Barça in three European Cup finals: once in the EHF Cup (2002) and twice in the Champions League (2010, 2020).
What the numbers say
Kiel are ranked third on the all-time standings of the EHF Champions League, behind leaders Barça and second-ranked Veszprém. Out of their 310 Champions League matches so far, Kiel won 205, tied 22, and lost 83. Their 300th anniversary match was the delayed final of the 2019/20 season – in December 2020 in Cologne, when they beat Barça 33:28.
Arrivals and departures:
Departures: Oskar Sunnefeldt (SC DHfK Leipzig), Malte Voigt (TSV Altenholz), Bevan Calvert (assistant coach THW Kiel U23)
EHF Champions League
Participations (including 2021/22 season): 24
Winners (4): 2006/07, 2009/10, 2011/12, 2019/20
Final (4): 1999/2000, 2007/08, 2008/09, 2013/14
Semi-finals (5): 1996/97, 2000/01, 2012/13, 2014/15, 2015/16
Quarter-finals (8): 1998/99, 2002/03, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2010/11, 2016/17, 2017/18, 2020/21
Group Phase (2): 1994/95, 1995/96
EHF Cup: Winners 1997/98, 2001/02, 2003/04, 2018/19
Champions Trophy: Winners 2006/07; Runners-up: 2000/01, 2001/02, 2003/04, 2007/08
German league: 22 titles (1957, 1962-63, 1994-96, 1998-2000, 2002, 2005-10, 2012-15, 2020-21)
German cup: 11 titles (1998-2000, 2007-09, 2011-13, 2017, 2019)