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01.09.2016, 16:20◄ last page     

VELUX EHF Champions League club countdown: 20 days to go - IFK Kristianstad (SWE). After pulling off some big surprises last season, the top Swedish side is back in Champions League action as they aim for some strong home performances in Group B.

Lindgren’s boys aim for the knockout stage

First they had to wait for more than 50 years - from 1953 until 2015 - to become Swedish champions again, and then IFK Kristianstad took their second straight league title in Sweden. Ola Lindgren’s team had not only been successful in domestic competition, but set showed signs of brilliance in the previous VELUX EHF Champions League season. Lindgren announced that he has resigned from his position as Swedish national team coach to focus on IFK.

Kristianstad beat Kolding twice, Löwen once and tied with eventual Champions League winners Kielce in their first ever appearance in the group phase. Due to being drawn into a tough group, even those results were not enough to make it to the Last 16.

Such outstanding performances made other clubs sit up and take notice of Kristianstad’s players: Thus, Fredric Pettersson and Andreas Cederholm have left for France, top star Kristian Björnsen signed for German side Wetzlar, while his Norwegian teammate Christian O’Sullivan joined Magdeburg (Germany).

Lindgren’s job now is to cope with this transitional phase. It’s the club’s goal not only to take the treble in Sweden but also to go a step further in the VELUX EHF Champions League in the upcoming year. Like in the previous season, they will face Löwen, Kielce, Vardar and Szeged, but mostly will fight with Zagreb, Celje and Brest for a spot in the Last 16.

“We are aiming to continue our great performances in our home arena with a fantastic atmosphere and we will try to make it to the Last 16,” club manager Nikolas Larsson says, adding on the opponents: “We are playing in a very tough group with many strong teams including defending champions Kielce and German champions Rhein-Neckar Löwen.” Lindgren was Löwen coach some years ago as the predecessor of current Danish gold hero Gudmundur Gudmundsson.

Icelandic team captain Olafur Gudmundsson - 2014 Champions League winner with SG Flensburg-Handewitt - expects an “inspiring challenge from which I hope to proceed to the knock-out stage; Kielce, Löwen and Vardar will be the top three favourites in our group, but we will try to match the rest in our home arena.”

IFK Kristianstad (SWE)

Qualification for the 2016/17 VELUX EHF Champions League season: Swedish champions

Newcomers: Gunnar Steinn Jonsson (Gummersbach), Mario Lipovac (Redbergslid IK), Alexander Tatarintsev (Gornik Zabrze), Stig Tore Moen (Bodö HK), Philip Henningsson (IFK Ystad), Tim Sörensen (Skanderborg)

Left the club: Johan Jepson (retired), Fredric Pettersson (Toulouse), Andreas Cederholm (Toulouse), Kristian Björnsen (Wetzlar), Anton Lindskog (Wetzlar), Christian O’Sullivan (Magdeburg), Marcus Dahlin, (Mors-Thy), Oskar Cosmo (O/V Helsingborg)

Coach: Ola Lindgren (since February 2012)
Team captain: Olafur Gudmundsson

Opponents in the group phase: Löwen, Kielce, Vardar, Zagreb, Szeged, Brest and Celje in Group B

VELUX EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2016/17 season): 2
Group Phase (1): 2015/16

EHF Cup:
Group Phase: 2013/14

Swedish champions: 1941, 1948, 1952, 1953, 2015, 2016
Swedish cup winners: -

TEXT: Björn Pazen / bc

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