"Champions League is special"Article
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HSV Hamburg sports director, Christian Fitzek, talks about the new season, the chances and about the initial difficulties of his team.

»EHF CL Channel »2008-09 Men's News

Champions League is special

HSV Hamburg is one of the favourites for the Bundesliga title, but also has good chances to reach the Champions League semi-final again. Nevertheless, sporting director Christian Fitzek is aware of the strength of the opponents – especially after a poor star in Germany. Fitzek identifies the reasons for a temporarily weakness after the first CL match.

Eurohandball.com: Hamburg won the first CL match this season very clearly against Presov. So are you satisfied with the start?

"The season started with difficulties"Fitzek: Yes, especially with our defence I was very satisfied. The beginning of the match was a little bit problematic, but we have shown what we are able to. In the second half our coach took the opportunity to save energy for some of the experienced players.

Eurohandball.com: This will be the second CL season of Hamburg. Did you expect to reach the semi-final already last season?

Fitzek: We have a top team and our objective is to qualify for the Champions League every season and reach the semi-final there. But as you need - especially in the knock-out. rounds - a lot of luck with the draws, we didn’t expect last season to get so far.

Eurohandball.com: Your team missed the final with only a few goals against Ciudad Real. Will it put more pressure or give more determination for you this season?

Fitzek: The semi-final against Ciudad Real was the greatest success in our club’s history. It was even more valuable than our CWC title a year before. Especially the second leg in Hamburg was great where we were so close to a big sensation after losing the first leg by seven goals. That was an incredible experience; even more so in a great atmosphere. I will never forget this experience in my whole life.

Eurohandball.com: How important is the Champions League for Hamburg? Can you compare it to the Bundesliga?

The Ciudad game was the top in the history of HSVFitzek: Every club, every player wants to play in the Champions League and reach the KO phase. Bundesliga is our “daily business”, while Champions League means something special. But it’s harder to play a whole season with 34 matches in the Bundesliga compared to the Champions League.

Eurohandball.com: Do you believe your club could reach the semi-finals again?

Fitzek: It’s a long road there and you need more than quality, you also need a bit of luck. I believe that ten teams have the potential to get there and Hamburg is on the list.

Eurohandball.com: In the past seasons the finals were always played by teams Spanish and German teams. Is it going to be the same or other teams have a chance to win too?

Fitzek: The best teams are from Spain and Germany and these two nations will have most teams in the semi-finals. But other teams, such as Zagreb, Montpellier or Veszprém are very strong and have a chance to win the title this season.

Eurohandball.com: Hamburg will meet Copenhagen, Belgrade and Presov in the first stage. You seem to be the top team in the group…

Fitzek: We are the favourites here, but we treat the opponents with respect. Copenhagen are a top team on an international level, they reached the EHF Cup final last year. And after all three rounds in the Bundesliga or Champions League, you have to be on alert against Presov. We have to give 100% each game.

Eurohandball.com: What do you think about the new playing system with quarterfinals and the teams taking the points to the Main Round?

Fitzek: When the playing system changes, you can draw the balance only at the end of the season. At first glance, it seems that the first group stage will be more important.

Eurohandball.com: In the Bundesliga you didn’t start well, especially in away matches. Was it a big disadvantage for your club that so many players were away to play at the Olympics in Beijing?

The CL started with celebrationsFitzek: Yes, this was the main reason. Nine(!) of our players were in Beijing, so our coach Martin Schwalb had only six handballers for the training sessions. It was absolutely impossible to make a good preparation for the season. We didn’t even have a single test match. The Olympics apart, two key players have major injuries: Pascal Hens has broken a bone in his knee and Oleg Velyky had to stop for cancer treatment. This was also one of the reasons for not starting so well. The burden on the national players became unhuman, but this subject was discussed many times before.

Eurohandball.com: Let’s take a look into the future. What headline would you like to read in the newspapers: “Hamburg win Champions League” or “Hamburg German champion for the first time”?

Fitzek: I prefer: “Hamburg played a great season and showed fantastic handball to the spectators.” If we – in addition – win a title, it would be even better.

TEXT: Björn Pazen