|29.09.2016, 15:00||◄ last page|
FEATURE: Flensburg chasing first win, while Bjerringbro-Silkeborg hope to surprise, when the two undefeated teams meet in Group A.
Confident teams in neighbour derby
On Sunday, there will be two confident teams meeting in the VELUX EHF Champions League Group A match in Aarhus.
Not only are Bjerringbro-Silkeborg and SG Flensburg-Handewitt undefeated in their national leagues, but both teams also avoided defeat in their first matches this season in Europe’s elite competition.
Through a stunning comeback, Flensburg settled for a 24:24 draw at home against Telekom Veszprém, despite being down 21:17 with 10 minutes left in game. The score was 23:20 with only five minutes left.
“Heart and passion” were the key words, according to the Flensburg camp after the comeback, which made it quite easy for the North German club to live with missing their 100th home win in Europe.
However, a win is a must, when the Flensburg team – a squad with six Danish players in their roster - travel north of the border to face Danish champions, Bjerringbro-Silkeborg.
“Yes, we need the two points and I think we are the favourites,” says line player, Henrik Toft Hansen, who is a former player of Silkeborg. “We will go to Denmark to take two points. It is a short trip, the atmosphere within the team is great and when we look at the tournament, we simply need two points in this match in order to be able to compete in this extremely tough group.”
Bjerringbro-Silkeborg did even better than Flensburg in their first match, when it comes to earning points. The Danish champions won 25:24 away against Swiss champions, Kadetten Schaffhausen, and just like Flensburg, they were trailing for parts of the match.
However, Silkeborg line player and defence expert, Michael V. Knudsen, understands that Flensburg will be a completely different task, even at home.
“Of course, Flensburg are huge the favourites in the match-up, but we have done very well so far this season and if we perform at our absolute peak, I think we have a chance to surprise. At least, an aggressive defence like ours is not something Flensburg comes across every day in the Bundesliga,” says the 38-year-old former Danish international, who represented Flensburg from 2005 to 2014.”
A very special experience
“It will be a special experience for me to play against Flensburg. When I left the club, I actually thought that I had played my last Champions League match, so I am very happy to have a go at the tournament again. Although there have been some changes in the Flensburg team since I departed, I still know most of the guys and I am really looking forward to seeing them again,” says Michael Knudsen, who left Flensburg after the club's greatest triumph in history – winning the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in 2014.
Knudsen also left the Danish national team that same year and his successor there, as well as in Flensburg, was no other than Henrik Toft Hansen, who makes no secret of the fact that Knudsen used to be some kind of role model to him.
“When I was a child, Michael Knudsen was my idol. I have already played against him a couple of times and this was and is always difficult. He is a great line player and he is still doing extremely well. I am looking forward to a good fight with him and the rest of his team,” says Henrik Toft Hansen.
Hansen will be playing in Denmark for the first time since winning the Olympic gold in Rio with his national teammates.
The match has been moved to the Ceres Arena in Aarhus, which can accommodate 5,000 spectators, compared to a capacity of 2,800 in Bjerringbro-Silkeborg's stadium, Jysk Arena in Silkeborg.
Flensburg have good memories from the arena in Aarhus, where they played once before in the VELUX EHF Champions League. In the 2003/04 season, they largely defeated Kolding IF 33:20 in the Last 16. Although, none of the current Flensburg players were a part of the team at that time.
Former Silkeborg player, Henrik Toft Hansen, admits that the event will be special to him. “From 2012 to 2013, I played one year for Bjerringbro and I am looking forward to meeting my former team. To a Dane, it is always something special to come home. I expect a full arena in Aarhus with a fantastic atmosphere, a good match and a win for SG Flensburg-Handewitt,” says the 29-year-old Danish international.
TEXT: Peter Bruun/tm