Karabatic: "THW are like a machine"Article
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Former Kiel star Nikola Karabatic will return to the Sparkassenarena on Sunday with his club Montpellier.

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Karabatic: "THW are like a machine"

Nikola Karabatic will have a very special Sunday, as he returns to Kiel for the first time in an official match after transferring from THW to Montpellier in 2009.

He will not only arrive with the French champions for a great clash against his German contenders, but also with high hopes for a successful season, including an accomplished mission to Cologne.

Before his return to Kiel, Karabatic – two times winner of the EHF Champions League – spoke to ehfCL.com.

ehfCL.com: After Montpellier missed the VELUX EHF FINAL4 very closely twice, will your team be able to reach Cologne this season?

Nikola Karabatic: It is always hard to predict right at the start of the season, but I believe this season our time has come to reach the final destination Cologne.

Our squad has increased by numbers and in quality. After having missed the VELUX EHF FINAL4 twice due to injuries, this gives me hope for a successful season.

Wissem Hmam is back to improve our defence, which means a lot for us. And our new wing Dragan Gajic gives us more opportunities on the right attacking side.

ehfCL.com: But you will have to face main contenders already in the Group Stage…

Nikola Karabatic: It is really tough to meet clubs like Kiel or Kobenhavn in this early part of the competition. So it will be hard to build a perfect base for the knock-out stage. And we want to rank first or second in the end.

Last season we won our group thanks to victories over top teams like Hamburg or Veszprem – and we still missed the VELUX EHF FINAL4. So it is clear, you also need some luck.

All three top teams of Group D – Kiel, Kobenhavn and Montpellier – want to reach Cologne, so it will be a tight stage.

I expect our team to be on the same level as Kobenhavn, but a bit below than Kiel.

ehfCL.com: On Sunday you will have your ‘official’ return to Kiel – how do you feel?

Nikola Karabatic: I have become a professional sportsman especially for clashes like the one on Sunday. I am absolutely looking forward to this game, it is unique to play in Kiel.

ehfCL.com: Do you consider Kiel as one of the candidates for winning the VELUX EHF Champions League?

Nikola Karabatic: No, not one of the favourites, Kiel are the favourites, as no team in the whole world have a stronger squad than THW.

Kiel is absolutely well-rehearsed, and when the THW engine is running, they are like a machine.

ehfCL.com: What’s your favourite team to play for – Montpellier or the French national team?

Nikola Karabatic: Where I currently play is always the most important one.

In the national team we do not need to put ourselves under pressure, as we have won everything. But this might be our advantage in Serbia and London.

Montpellier is highly successful in the domestic competitions, but have been lacking international success since 2003. I believe that we can beat all top teams this season – and so I enjoy playing for MAHB.

ehfCL.com: Is it something special for you that you play in the same team with your brother Luka? Is he already a candidate for the national team?

Nikola Karabatic: In two or three years he will able to be among the national squad constantly.

He is already a brilliant defence player, he has to improve his attacking performance – but in the training sessions he can become wild like an animal.

Match of the week

The duel of two big guns will be broadcast as a free-of-charge live web stream on ehfTV.com as our featured "Match of the Week", including English commentary of Tom O’Brannagain.

VELUX EHF Champions League, Group Phase, Round 2
Sunday, 9 October 2011, 19:00 hrs (local time)
THW Kiel (GER) vs. Montpellier MAHB (FRA)

ehfTV.com is the official Internet TV platform of the European Handball Federation and offers free live streaming as well as a video on demand service.

TEXT: Björn Pazen