Ilić: Veszprem ready to take Europe by stormArticle
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INTERVIEW: The Serbian left back tells about the transition to his new team and expectations for a great season

»EHF CL Channel »2013-14 Men's News

Ilić: Veszprem ready to take Europe by storm

Round 2 of the VELUX EHF Champions League Group A brings an eagerly awaited clash between Hungarian giants MKB-MVM Veszprem and Germany’s Rhein-Neckar Lowen, after the two sides made contrasting starts in Europe’s elite club competition

While Rhein-Neckar laboured to a 31:31 home draw against Ukrainian upstarts HC Motor Zaporozhye, Veszprem romped to a 28:15 win at Russia’s St. Petersburg HC on the back of eight goals from their new acquisition Momir Ilić.

The Serbian left back displayed his lethal shotting prowess and having settled in seamlessly at Veszprem after his summer move from reigning European club champions THW Kiel, the 31-year-old offered his views on the upcoming season in an exclusive interview to What kind of challenge do you expect when Veszprem lock horns with Rhein-Neckar Lowen in Sunday’s match of the week?

Ilić: Rhein-Neckar Lowen are an excellent team and beating them will not be an easy task. They have two quality players in each position and although they have made a patchy start in the Bundesliga, we have to be fully focused if we are to come away with a win. Of course, we should start as favourites in front of a full house on home court but that could also put extra weight on our shoulders. Will a meeting with your Serbia teammates playing for the opposition be emotional? 

Ilić: It will be nice to meet up with my friends Nenad Manojlović and Rajko Prodanović, but once the game starts, our friendship will be on hold until the final whistle. We are professionals and we all have a responsibility to perform to the best of our abilities at club level. It won’t be the first time or the last that I’ve crossed swords with fellow Serbs in the Champions League and we’ll definitely have a chat before and after the match. And how do you see your group?

Ilić: Our group at first looked easy but the first round results denied that assumption in no uncertain terms. Motor’s draw against Rhein-Neckar Lowen in Germany suggests they will be very awkward opponents, while the youthful outfits of Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb and Celje Pivovarna Laško will also be no pushovers on home court. There are no easy opponents in Europe’s premier club competition and every game is a new challenge. What are your objectives in Europe this season? 

Ilić: Our goal is to reach Cologne and we hope that we will be able to go all the way. It’s the only topic here at Veszprém because the Hungarian title race effectively boils down to our rivalry with Pick Szeged and hence we are all dreaming about Champions League glory.”

There are plenty of contenders this season but I think we have a very good chance of making the FINAL4. Veszprém were very close to getting there last season, when they reached the last eight and suffered a narrow defeat by my former club THW Kiel. Having played in that enthralling two-leg tie, I could see for myself that the Hungarian side would soon become a force to be reckoned with and I am confident that we have what it takes. What impression has your former club made on you in the early stages of the 2013/14 season? 

Ilić: Kiel have endured a bit of a rough start this season but their dip in form is temporary because they are a handball institution. There are plenty of new players who need a bit of time to settle in. Once they do, Kiel will start firing on all cylinders again and for me they are still worthy contenders to reach the Final Four. What are the differences between the on-court tactics at Kiel and those you have adopted in Veszprem?

Ilić: The Veszprém set-up is very different from the one at THW Kiel because the two coaches apply contrasting systems. Icelander Alfred Gislason had one vision of how we should play in Kiel while Spaniard Antonio Ortega sees things differently at Veszprém, but that’s completely natural because they come from different backgrounds. Both coaches and set-ups are excellent and players can only benefit from playing under different systems. I have found it very easy to fit into Ortega’s set-up because that kind of handball suits me. Can you give our readers an insight into how life and handball fans in Germany compare to the environment in Hungary? 

Ilić: Life in Hungary is a bit different to that in Germany but it took me no time to adapt and I am really enjoying it here. I had a wonderful time in Germany but I am also overjoyed with how I settled in after moving to Hungary, whose climate is different. Veszprém fans are fantastic and I think they are one of the best crowds in the world, with the ability to create an atmosphere which makes our arena an impregnable fortress.

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / cor