Handball festival in SkopjeArticle
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While a defeat could cost a lot for Kiel, the hosts are encouraged by a game played in 2002.

Handball festival in Skopje

At the first glance, the trip to the Balkan appears to be no more than an obligatory journey for THW Kiel. When the game will throw-off in Skopje at 18hrs on Thursday, one could believe that there’s not much at stake in the home of the FYR Macedonian champion Metalurg Skopje.

Kiel have to be careful in SkopjeThe hosts have no more chance to reach one of the first two places and go on to the Main Round. Accordingly, the points received here will not even count in the future. It will be only the game against Barcelona on 23 November that will be interesting for Kiel.

But don’t forget: this could be the trick. In case the Zebras leave one or two points in Skopje, Barcelona could still take them over in Group C. And then they will meet a German group winner in the Main Round.

Coach Alfred Gislason will travel to Skopje with a certain level of anxiety knowing all this. The absence of Börge Lund (Achilles injury) and Nikola Karabatic (shoulder injury) will be just as felt as that of Andreas Palicka (meniscus problems). It means that only Thierry Omeyer will be there on court – the new goalkeeper Herdeiro Lucau is not available to play in the Champions League.

The FYR Macedonian capital celebrates handball days. On Sunday evening Metalurg hosted Barcelona in front of 5 500 spectators in the Boris Trajkovski Arena and lost 22:29.

This time they will meet another big club of international handball, THW. The most notorious fans can still remember the game in December 2002. Back then THW Kiel lost by 26:27 in Skopje. That time not against Metalurg, but against the local rival Vardar.

Three players, Vardar Aleksandar Jovic, Oleg Maltsev and line player Vanco Dimovski, were there in that squad.

The latter, Dimovski, will be missing this time. After serving his one-game suspension against Barcelona, Vanco Dimovski suffered a meniscus injury.

"I hope that I will fully recover by the World Championship in Croatia. If I have to miss the next two games in the CL, I will undergo a small surgery and restart trainings at the beginning of December,” said Dimovski.

The Ukrainian Oleg Maltsev, who moved to Skopje from the Russian Astrakhan in the 90’s, likes to remember that achievement. He scored seven games that match.

“If we make fewer mistakes than on the away game,“ says Oleg Maltsev, “we may have a chance in front of our own fans. It will be difficult, though.“

Goalkeeper Borko Ristovski, who scored from long range in Kiel, adds:

“We cannot deceive ourselves and our fans saying that we will beat Kiel. We will give all we have and we will hope for a good performance in Drammen. We want to finish third.“ …and that would take them to the Cup Winners’ Cup.

TEXT: Jan Kirschner and Goran Antevski