Kiel has improved since Doha, Jícha insistsArticle
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Kiel top shooter Filip Jícha talks about the start of the season, the pressure to be defending champions and how to break the curse to reach their final destination Cologne again. THW will play in the first MOTW on ehfTV on Sunday.

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Kiel has improved since Doha, Jicha insists

The hair cut is new, the ambitions remained the same: Filip Jícha and THW Kiel are confident to play a key role in the VELUX EHF Champions League. The Czech shooter and the trophy winner in 2010 and 2012 - talks in the Part 1 of the exclusive interview with about the opening match against Madrid (Match of the Week on ehfTV), the chances his team have in this season and how Kiel is trying to break the spell that no defending champions made their way to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 by now. Do you find it strange that the first match of the new VELUX EHF Champions League season is the re-match of the 2012 final?
Filip Jícha: I could say that this is an ordinary group match – but it is completely different for me. It is a very special match from my personal point of view, as I have never played in Madrid, we have had all our previous matches in Ciudad Real. And three weeks ago we already faced in the final of the IHF Super Globe, but now it is a completely different competition. I am really looking forward to the start of the Champions League, as in this season the stimulation is exceptionally high as we are the defending champions. We want to continue on our successful way, but this is going to be extremely tough. You mentioned the Super Globe, where THW was defeated by Madrid in the final – is the match on Sunday a chance to take revenge?
Filip Jícha: No, as it is an absolutely different match, competition and circumstances. Our major task in Doha was to integrate our new players and we trained really hard there. Our bodies and our brains were tired in this final. Now we fight for points in the VELUX EHF Champions League and things have changed: our heads are fresh and we had three weeks to get well-rehearsed. We want to prove that we have improved and want to show a great match in Madrid. Many observers rate THW Kiel as the big favourite on winning the VELUX EHF Champions League again – do you agree?
Filip Jícha: When you are a player it is a great honour to be rated like this by coaches and experts. The previous season was incredible and to raise the trophy in Cologne was the icing of the cake. We have undergone certain changes in the squad now, but we want to be as successful as in the past season. It is one of our major objectives to qualify for the VELUX EHF FINAL 4 again. But to take it for granted in any case would be dismissive against our opponents. The competition is highly strong this season, as some teams have reinforced their squads. Like our Group Phase opponent Veszprém for example – they are one of the main contenders for reaching the FINAL4. But of course THW have the same stimulation. Since the implementation of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne no defending champion did qualify for the next edition of this final tournament – are you going to break this curse?
Filip Jícha: Like our team captain Markus Ahlm said in an interview with already, I believe that it was coincidental. Those teams which had won the VELUX EHF FINAL4 were no incidental or lucky winners, but they deserved those trophies by the performances they had shown in the whole season. So I believe it is a coincidence and I hope that we can break this unwritten law this season. Personally the FINAL4 is my highlight of the season, the biggest of all events in club handball.

Read Part 2 - THW is in my blood on Saturday
Watch the first ehfTV Match of the week on Sunday (18:00 hrs local time) here

TEXT: Björn Pazen /br