Landin full of confidenceArticle
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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Rhein Neckar Löwen hero Niklas Landin speaks about his brilliant form and his side's chances of making this season a historic one.

»EHF CL Channel »2013-14 Men's News

Landin full of confidence

Despite incredible team performances of Rhein Neckar Löwen in the previous weeks, there is one "Mannheim hero“, who topped the rest of the squad: Niklas Landin. The Danish national team goalkeeper (25) was an outstanding tower in front of the Löwen goal in the crucial matches with Kielce (VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16), Kiel (Bundesliga) and just on Sunday against giants FC Barcelona in the quarter-final of Europe's elite club competition. spoke to Landin after an astonishing 38:31 win over Barcelona, flavoured with 17 saves by the Löwen goalkeeper, about his current form and the chance to finish this season with the two of handball's most coveted titles after becoming EHF Cup winner one year ago. Did you have to pinch yourself during those historic 60 minutes against Barcelona to find out that is was no dream, but reality?

Niklas Landin: It was incredible –mainly in the first half. I never ever had expected a run-down of this match like it finally happened. It was a giant win, and what we managed to do was giant. To score in nearly every attack like it happened in the first half against a team like Barcelona, is simply unbelievable, simply sensational. How were the celebrations in the dressing room?

Niklas Landin: We had a beer and then left for home, that’s all.  We have some big tasks ahead, there’s no sense in making a big party right now. Was this historic win already the ticket for the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne?

Niklas Landin: In any case: No! No! One half is over, the second is still ahead.  We have shown a brilliant performance, which is great, but we have achieved nothing yet. I don’t think that the Barcelona defence can be overrun again like we did in the first half. In general, a seven goal advantage looks like a quite comfortable cushion prior to the return game.

If someone would have offered me this result before the match, I immediately would have taken it. But after the match we have to recognise that a ten-goal lead would have been possible – but also only six goals in the worst case. But in the end we can be so proud on a sensational performance and the fact that we are ahead by seven goals before the second leg. Simply incredible. What do you expect in Palau Blaugrana next Saturday?

Niklas Landin: The Barcelona team and the supporters will put an enormous pressure on us. And a seven goal lead can be gone within a few minutes, as proven by Barcelona in the previous season by eliminating Atletico Madrid after a six goal defeat in the first leg of the quarter-final.  If we start poorly in Barcelona, everything we built up could be gone in minutes. So we have to play very patiently in the initial stages, having in mind the great moments from the first leg. In any case, we must not think that we have already booked our ticket to Cologne. You currently are in the form of your life. How much of the recent success of Rhein Neckar Löwen is down to Niklas Landin?

Niklas Landin (laughs): I really don’t know. I am not the one to answer this question, others should rate my performance. But you agree that you are playing at a sensational level at the moment?

Niklas Landin: Indeed, everything is brilliant right now – for me and the entire team. Those matches against Kielce, Kiel and Barcelona were special moments, which are difficult to top. But even those matches are only snapshots of time. We have not achieved anything yet, we have not won a single title. But after beating Kiel last week, Rhein Neckar Löwen are also on top of the Bundesliga. Is there a chance of a double?

Niklas Landin: To be on top is a brilliant feeling. We were the hunters for a long time, now we are the hunted. But to say it again: We have won nothing, even as the calculation seems to be quite simple: If we win all five remaining Bundesliga matches, we are German champions for the first time. What makes Löwen so strong at the moment?

Niklas Landin: We are just riding on a huge wave of success. We have gathered a large amount of confidence, some things seem to fly off the shelves, like we have seen in the match against Barcelona. Our defence is solid as a rock, and thanks to it we can start incredible counter-attacks with Uwe Gensheimer or Patrick Groetzki. In my opinion those counter attacks are our best weapon at the moment. And what makes Niklas Landin as strong as he currently plays?

Niklas Landin: The same as for the team - big, big confidence, which is growing week by week. Additionally I have recovered from thigh problems, which allows me to train harder and more efficiently with my great coach Tomas Svensson. Being without any pain makes things easier in the training sessions and the matches. On Saturday you also can make up for your personal "Barcelona Waterloo", as you had one of the darkest hours of your career in this city when losing the World Championship final 2013 with Denmark against Spain by 19:35?

Niklas Landin: I did not have this in mind, but thanks for the advice. I have suppressed this match and took it off my head. This was the past, now we are in present with different teams and different circumstances. Final calculation – how do you rate Löwen's chance of making it to Cologne?

Niklas Landin: Still 50:50, nothing more, nothing less.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br