Ahlm: We want to break the curseArticle
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THW Kiel team captain is aware but excited of the two upcoming quarter-final matches against MKB Veszprém – “A tough nut to crack”

Ahlm: We want to break the curse

THW Kiel have secured the first of three possible titles by becoming German Cup champion last Sunday after a brilliant final against Flensburg. Now team captain Marcus Ahlm and his teammates hope for next success. They need to break the curse that the reigning title holders of the VELUX EHF Champions League do not qualify for the next VELUX EHF FINAL4.

“We have tough matches ahead”, says three-time champion Ahlm to ehfCL.com before the first quarter-final leg against MKB Veszprém KC. Ahlm will leave THW after ten highly successful years after this season, returning to his home country Sweden – and in the ideal scenario he has still four VELUX EHF Champions League matches to play in his life.

ehfCL.com: One heard that the party after the cup triumph was not that big?
Marcus Ahlm: Yes, it was a little party in a small round only. But of course you have to celebrate when you win a title. We play on Wednesday in the league and on Sunday we have the Champions League match against Veszprém – so we have not reached the status to have a big party as we are still in two competitions.

ehfCL.com: Are Veszprém the hardest possible opponents you could get besides Barcelona?
Marcus Ahlm: In the current stage of this competition you only get top opponents like Veszprém. The Hungarians play better from match to match, so we have a tough nut to crack.

ehfCL.com: Is it a major disadvantage that you have to play the re-match in the Veszprém’s cauldron?
Marcus Ahlm: It think from the statistical point of view it might be a disadvantage, but I would leave the answer open. As a player you should not think about playing at home or playing away. What will be, will be. And we knew before the draw that we will have an away match in the second leg, as we finished second ranked in the group phase. But in my opinion those home and away thoughts are overrated.

ehfCL.com: But in the last home duel THW clashed Veszprém by 31:20…
Marcus Ahlm: We played really good, but we also played good in the first leg, when we lost by one goal at Veszprém – and both encounters were highly entertaining for the spectators. We know what we need to achieve to go on to the VELUX EHF FINAL4, and we have a huge respect for Veszprém, but parallel we are looking forward to those matches.

ehfCL.com: How big must the cushion from the first leg be to have a chance in Veszprém?
Marcus Ahlm: I don’t calculate, as you can’t calculate. It is impossible to say this before. So many factors finally decide the outcome of two matches – and it happens so often that the goal difference after the first leg was really not decisive. We want to make our way, no matter how and no matter the goal difference after the first leg will be. I expect two highly close games.

ehfCL.com: Is there any small sign indicating which teams is favoured?
Marcus Ahlm: No, two top teams on an equal level face – like in all pairings in the quarter-finals.

ehfCL.com: By looking upon the keys to success: Do you agree that the goalkeeper’s duel Thierry Omeyer vs. Mirko Alilović will decide?
Marcus Ahlm: Those direct key duels are always in the focus of media, they like it. Of course both goalkeepers are highly important for their teams, but for me the cooperation of goalkeeper and defence is the key, like in all crucial matches. Without a strong cooperation, you cannot win and get real problems.

ehfCL.com: One of THW’s major season objectives was to break the VELUX EHF FINAL4 curse…
Marcus Ahlm: Exactly! I don’t know why, but all defending champions failed on their way to Cologne by now. We want to end this series as to be part of the top event in Cologne is our goal.

ehfCL.com: Ahlm, Narcisse, Omeyer – three players who imprinted Kiel’s history in the past years leave the club after this season. Is – in this case – any title something special, as the team will never play in the same constellation in future?
Marcus Ahlm: We did not reflect this during a match last Sunday. But afterwards we sat together and said: “Hey, this was our last German cup final.” It plays no role on the court, as we are professional and we are highly focused, but yes, it is a matter.

Furtehr information
Follow the match live and free of charge on ehfTV.com on Sunday 21 April at 17:15 hrs

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br