Nobody underestimates Celje, Bitter saysArticle
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Hamburg´s goalkeeper talks to before the first Match of the week of the knock-out stage in Celje

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Nobody underestimates Celje, Bitter says

The goalkeeper Johannes Bitter is the “insurance” for the success of HSV Hamburg currently. In this interview with the 30-year-old 2007 world champion talks about the upcoming last 16 match at RK Celje Pivovarna Laško (the Match of the Week), his comeback after his long-term injury and his dream to go to Cologne again. In the last 16 match of the previous VELUX EHF Champions League season against Füchse Berlin you tore your crucial ligament. Do those last 16 matches against Celje have a specific meaning for you regarding the injury?

Johannes Bitter: No, I do not think about the injury anymore. It is long time ago and I personally ticked off this subject. After your comeback experts said that you are going through your “second adolescence” – do you agree?

Johannes Bitter: Am I so old already? But it is right that I returned mentally and physically fully recovered. This is the base for my current performances. Is it currently the best ever Johannes Bitter standing in the goal?

Johannes Bitter: I don’t know, and this is not important. It is more important that my teammates can rely on my support and consistency from the goal area. So they can focus on their tasks, which improves us as a team. How tough was your struggle in the rehab to manage to return in December 2012?

Johannes Bitter: Everybody can imagine what such an injury and such long rehab means. It was not easy, but I could focus on my objectives all the time and I learnt a lot about myself in this time. But, as mentioned, this is a past now. Since your comeback, HSV did not lose a single match in all competitions – how is the percentage of Johannes Bitter for this success?

Johannes Bitter: It is pointless to ponder about this. Any player is a contribution to the success of a team. We have players in our squad who are not on the court for such a long time, but I can’t imagine our team without them in a certain way. The whole team gained confidence by the success in the previous months and we cannot be impressed that simple. HSV became roup winner in the VELUX EHF Champions League. Have you been surprised by this outcome against top opponents?

Johannes Bitter: Yes, the group was tough and you could not foresee to finish on top after our domestic performances in the first half of the season. But we constantly played better in the Champions league than in Bundesliga until a certain point. In the end we grabbed our chance to win the group. In 2012 HSV were eliminated by Füchse Berlin in the last 16 – how sure are you that Hamburg will reach the quarter-finals of the VELUX EHF Champions League for the fifth time in your sixth participation?

Johannes Bitter: We have a strong and experienced squad and we can cause problems to a lot of opponents. You have to play 100 per cent in the 120 minutes of those knock-out matches. Celje are playing a very dynamic handball and they are full of confidence. For sure, it will be thrilling and exciting, but in case we play our usual game, I am convinced that we can qualify for the quarter-finals. Celje beat THW Kiel in the group phase – a warning signal for HSV in the upcoming away match?

Johannes Bitter: I saw parts of this match, which had really been impressive. But Celje are firmly established in the world of handball since years, and nobody will underestimate this team. Even as the knock-out stage is just about to begin: How big are your hopes to reach the final destination Cologne, the VELUX EHF FINAL4, for the second time after 2011?

Johannes Bitter: I am really looking forward to be part of this giant event in Cologne and I have no objections, if it will be in 2013. To go to Cologne is one of our major goals in this season. HSV are still fighting in three competitions, German league, German cup and VELUX EHF Champions League – what are the current priorities?

Johannes Bitter: All competitions provide attraction and we want to fulfil our task as good as possible in all of them. In the German Cup we are semi-finalist in the final tournament, so in a single match everything can happen. In the Champions league we are aiming to reach Cologne and in the league we are fighting to increase our position to be part of the Champions league also in the next season. Currently every match is exciting and decisive.

Further information
Follow Match of the Week live and free on on Saturday 16 March at 16:30 hrs local time

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br