|15.09.2016, 20:10||◄ last page|
VELUX EHF Champions League Countdown – 6 days to go: Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER).
First season as champions and without Gensheimer
For the first time and in their eighth appearance in the VELUX EHF Champions League, the Löwen have qualified as German champions, managing to leave THW Kiel behind. The Löwen’s final league match, after which they raised the trophy, was also a great farewell to their unique ‘son of Mannheim.’ After 13 years, Olympic All-star left wing, Uwe Gensheimer, departed from the Löwen to accept a new challenge at Paris Saint-Germain.
The successor of the four-time German handball player of the year is a well-known face in the club - Icelandic Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson will be returning to the club from Barcelona.
Goalkeeper Borko Ristovski was replaced by Andreas Palicka to create an all Swedish goalkeeping duo alongside Mikkael Appelgren. At the beginning of the new season, Löwen captured the German Super Cup by defeating Magdeburg and will be full of confidence moving forward.
After an unexpected elimination against Zagreb in last season’s Last 16, the international goal set is quite humble: to make it to the knockout rounds.
The preparation was not that easy, as both right backs, Alexander Petersson and Harald Reinkind, were ruled out by injuries and four players were involved in the Olympic Games. Mads Mensa Larsen returned as a gold medallist with Denmark and Hendrik Pekeler took the bronze medal with Germany. After Gensheimer’s exit, Swiss international Andy Schmid was selected as the Löwen’s new team captain, having been previously awarded the best Bundesliga player for three consecutive years (2014-2016).
“Every player in the world dreams of being part of the Champions League, as only the best-of-the-best face one another in this competition,” says Schmid, as he shows his anticipation prior to the start of the season. The Löwen will have the chance to take revenge against Zagreb in the group phase and in addition, they will face teams such as Vardar and defending champions Kielce.
“We will not have any easy matches and we must focus from game to game. Kielce are the favourites to top the group, mainly as they have a straightforward domestic competition, while Vardar, Zagreb and ourselves will fight for the remaining positions,” adds Schmid.
Since last July, Jennifer Kettemann is the new club director, taking over from Lars Lamade. “Firstly we want to make it to the Last 16, then we can look ahead,” says Kettemann.
“After the Last 16, we will face demanding opponents. We know some teams from the past seasons; Brest are the only unknown opponent to us. We are really looking forward to starting the new international season as German champions, with the only small obstacles being the long trips travelling to the competitors.”
Rhein-Neckar Löwen (GER)
Qualification for the 2016/17 VELUX EHF Champions League season: German champions
Newcomers: Andreas Palicka (Aalborg Handbold), Dejan Manaskov (Vardar Skopje), Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson (FC Barcelona), Michel Abt (SG Kronau-Östringen)
Coach: Nikolaj Jacobsen (since July 2014)
TEXT: Björn Pazen / tm