Kiel go from snow to snowArticle
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Defending champions aiming to win their first Last 16 leg in Russia

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Kiel go from snow to snow

Heavy snow and heavy storms in mid-March are the current companions to THW Kiel.

Right before their VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16 first leg away to Chekhovskie Medvedi, the winter returned to Northern Germany, a perfect way to acclimatise before their trip to Russia on Wednesday.

Before the duel between the table toppers of the German and the Russian leagues, THW are well aware of the “Bears” and what lies ahead.

“This is the hardest possible opponent we could get. We will see 120 minutes full of tension and we have to count on our fans in the re-match to climb this high hurdle,” said THW coach Alfred Gislason, who was awarded “German coach of the year 2012” after securing the German league, German Cup, and mainly the VELUX EHF Champions League” in the space of four weeks last year.

The fans at Kiel are looking forward to the Russian champions’ arrival, with ticket sales for the second leg on 24 March being a huge success.

Some fans were queuing for more than eight hours in front of the Sparkassen Arena last Saturday.

At temperatures below zero, the mascot, Hein Daddel, was serving coffee for the people waiting to get a ticket. The Arena will be packed for Kiel’s first home knock-out stage match this season.

Coach Gislason is not the only one well aware of the Russian record holder and 2010 VELUX EHF FINAL4 participant.

“Being a little bit luckier, Medvedi could have become number one in their group and not number three.

“They have shown their strength, especially on home ground, remaining unbeaten against top guns like Hamburg and Flensburg.

“I believe that this Last 16 fixture will be decided in Kiel not in Chekhov though we want to win in Russia too,” THW manager Klaus Elwardt said before the team’s departure to Russia.

Medvedi displayed their confidence right after the draw, admitting that they want to go all the way, and to be the best you have to beat the best.

“If you want to win the Champions League, you need to beat the defending champions,” team manager Alexander Safonov said on

The statistics are in favour of THW, they have won both previous duels with the Russians and Medvedi have only managed four victories out of 26 matches against German teams.

“We do not look upon those numbers. Medvedi is nearly identical with the Russian national team, and they played some really good matches at the World Championship.

We need to give 100 percent and finally have to hope for the support in our home match,” left wing Dominik Klein said.

His teammate on the right wing, Christian Sprenger, is ready for Russia. After an ankle injury he is back in the team and will be able to play in ice-cold Chekhov on Thursday.

Goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer will make his last trip to Russia with Kiel, as he will transfer to Montpellier at the end of the season and no other Russian team is still participating in this season’s competition. Omeyer will face Medvedi's Richard Stochl, who was Montpellier's goalkeeper last season.

The defending VELUX EHF Champions League winners have the honour of blowing the starting whistle for the 2012/13 Last 16 matches at Chekhov on Thursday at 19:30 hrs. local time (16:30 CET).

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor