Jacobsen relishing European adventureArticle
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VELUX EHF Champions League is a great bonus for Aalborg Håndbold

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Jacobsen relishing European adventure

Aalborg Håndbold head coach Nikolaj Jacobsen will be content with reaching the Last 16 in his first VELUX EHF Champions League season.

The club entering Group D of the competition is in fact only two season’s old.

When AaB, who were in the Champions League during the 2010/11 season, closed the handball department at the end of that season, Aalborg Håndbold arose, became Danish champions in just their second season and are now ready for the big European stage.

“For us, playing the Champions League is a great bonus and a great boost to our club,” Nikolaj Jacobsen told ehfCL.com.

41-year-old Jacobsen, former international left winger with 139 appearances for Denmark, has a lot of experience at the top level from his own playing career – with Danish side GOG and Germany’s THW Kiel – as well as two seasons as assistant coach at Bjerringbro-Silkeborg.

This will be his first European adventure as head coach and he is really looking forward to the challenge.

“In Denmark there is often a lot of talk about the Champions League being so tough that is costs the participants points in the national league.

”I want to get away from that attitude. We do not want to see this extra number of matches as a disturbance to our daily life, but as a boost and as refreshment. 

”The experience our players get this coming season, is what 100 or 200 Danish players are yearning every year without getting that opportunity.

”So what if we get an injury or two? When I was in Kiel, we once played with eight fit players, and still we won the championship as well as the Champions League. We are really looking forward to getting started. We are in a tough, but interesting group, I think,” said an enthusiastic Jacobsen.

Last 16 may be the limit

“In that group, I believe we can finish anywhere between third and fifth position. I expect the two German teams (SG Flensburg-Handewitt and the winner of the tie Füchse Berlin vs. HSV Hamburg) to be the two strongest teams in our group, but I think we have a good chance of finishing third,” predicts the Aalborg coach.

“Even if we finish third in our group, we are likely to run into a team who has a larger budget and more quality than us. We have to realise that the best Danish teams are still just outside top eight in Europe.

”French, Macedonian and Slovenian teams seem to have improved, so we still have to be content with reaching the last 16,” said Jacobsen, who had to wave goodbye to three of his key players after winning the Danish championship in May this year.

Swedish goalkeeper Johan Sjöstrand has signed for THW Kiel, while Norwegian backcourt player Kristian Kjelling has joined Danish rivals Bjerringbro-Silkeborg and right winger Jan Lennartsson has moved home to Sweden.

Sjöstrand has been replaced by another Swede, Richard Kappelin who has joined from Al Gharafa in Qatar. The gap after Lennartsson seems to be filled by young talents, while the club is still searching for a replacement for Kjelling.

“It was obvious that Kristian (Kjelling) meant a lot to our team, not least at one end of the court, so he is not easy to replace, but when we get a new backcourt player to succeed him, I think we still have a rather strong and broad squad who can do well in Europe as well as the domestic league,” concluded Jacobsen.

Apart from Flensburg and the winner between Füchse and Hamburg, Aalborg will be up against RK Gorenje Velenje from Slovenia, Naturhouse la Rioja from Spain and the winner of the qualification tie between Swedish side Drott Halmstad and Handball Esch from Luxembourg in Group D.

Photo credits: Aalborg Håndbold

TEXT: Peter Bruun / cor