Danish Champions League debutants with 10 new players
When TTH Holstebro enter Group D of the VELUX EHF Champions League with a home game against Dinamo Bucuresti Sunday 25 September, the Danish side will be new to the Champions League in more than one sense.
Not only are they taking part in the prestigious tournament for the first time in their history:
“we have also changed ten players compared to last season,” as head coach Patrick Westerholm put it.
41-year-old Westerholm is also new to the competition but only as a coach.
Finnish representation is not seen often in the Champions League, but with former Finnish international Westerholm as head coach and current Finnish international Jac Karlsson as playmaker, the Nordic country is actually represented in the group phase this season.
“I hope I can make way for more Finnish coaches in the competition,” says Patrick Westerholm who may be the first Finnish coach in the Champions League Group Phase, but who is definitely not new to the Champions League as such.
In his time as player in KIF Kolding – today KIF Kolding Kobenhavn – he represented the Danish club in the Champions League four times, reaching the semi-final once and the quarter-final once as well.
“It is really cool for me to be back in the Champions League, this time as a coach, and personally, I am looking so much forward to playing these matches.
“Of course, I can also make use of my Champions League experience from my playing days, but we still have to bear in mind, that the game is different today, and so is the Champions League,” he says.
Out of the women’s shadow
While the Champions League will be a new experience for Holstebro, playing in Europe is not new to the team from the western part of Denmark.
Holstebro have been in the Men’s EHF Cup three out of the past four years, and in the 2012/13 season, they even reached the finals.
However, it has been the women’s team, who have made the greatest European achievements in the club so far.
Three times in the last four years have the Holstebro women won a European competition.
In 2013 and 2015, they won the EHF Cup, and last season, they won the last edition of the Cup Winners’ Cup.
In a way, one could say that the men are stepping out of the shadow of the women who have never managed to qualify for the Champions League yet.
“We do not really see it that way, though.
“We are simply glad to be part of the Champions League for the first time ever, even though we are not in Group A or B.
“However, if we manage to become Danish champions this season, we may make it into one of the top groups next year,” hopes Patrick Westerholm, whose team lost the finals of the Danish championship to Bjerringbro-Silkeborg on aggregate last season.
“As I said, we have changed ten players compared to last season, and even though many of our players have experience from the Champions League as well as from the EHF Cup, we will mainly be gathering experience this season.
“However, this does not mean that we are not going for one of the two tickets the knockout stages. We most certainly do.
“We aim to win every game we play, but we will have to be better on away court than we were in the EHF Cup Group Phase last season, when we were run over in Nantes as well as in Göppingen – two big defeats which cost us a quarter-final berth,” remembers Patrick Westerholm who is in his second year as head coach in Holstebro.
“You may say that there is not much of a difference between the Champions League and the EHF Cup in the way that both competitions are group phases, but when you look at our group, you will see that it contains some very strong teams.
“Zaporozhye have some very experienced players, Besiktas have lots of Champions League experience and even from tougher groups.
“We already know what a frightening home court Nantes have, and last year, we had plenty of trouble with Sporting, so we obviously also have great respect for the Portuguese team in our group (ABC/UMinho)”
“However, we are looking very much forward to this series of matches which are awaiting us, and we can hardly wait to get started,” says Patrick Westerholm.
You can catch TTH Holstebro enter Group D of the VELUX EHF Champions League against Dinamo Bucuresti this Sunday (25th) live on ehfTV.com at 16:50 local time.