Small city ready for big European nightsArticle
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VELUX EHF Champions League countdown, part 3: Alingsås HK is back after a four-year absence and ready to grasp every chance to impress on the European stage

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Small city ready for big European nights

Five years ago they had their first appearance and were taught a lesson, now Alingsås HK are back in the VELUX EHF Champions League and the whole city of 23,000 inhabitants is eagerly awaiting the next challenge.

By beating Lugi in the Swedish final, Alingsås took their second domestic championship title and are rewarded with encounters against European powerhouses such as defending champions SG Flensburg-Handewitt, record winners FC Barcelona and their Danish neighbours KIF Kolding Kobenhavn in the group phase.

Coach Mikael Franzén and his team, including seven newcomers, hope for a special atmosphere in their one-year-old, state-of-the-art arena with a capacity of 3,000 fans.

“It will be a big challenge for us as players to face some of the best teams in the world. We will have the possibility to play international handball both in Europe and in our own arena in Alingsås, that will be great. We are looking forward to this,” says team captain Max Darj.

Franzén, who also acts as the club manager, adds: “For us it is a big challenge both for the club and for our organisation.”

Five seasons ago, Alingsås finished their debut Champions League season with two wins and eight defeats and this year they hope to do much better.

Despite the top opponents they will compete with, Franzén and his team will be keen to make the most of any opportunity.

“You must always look for the chances and of course the possibility to reach the knock-out stage is there. It will be extremely tough, we are well aware of that, but as a coach and a player you always have to look for the opportunities. That is part of the reason why you play handball.”

In contrast to most of his players, Franzén already knows what it’s like to be part of the VELUX EHF Champions League after coaching former Swedish champions Sävehof in the competition, as does Fredrik Larsson, the biggest name among the newcomers, arriving from German side VfL Gummersbach after a spell under Franzén at Sävehof.

Three questions to coach Mikael Franzén:

What are your expectations for the upcoming season of the VELUX EHF Champions League - regarding your objectives and group opponents?

Mikael Franzén: It will be great fun and we will play against the two of the best teams in the world, Flensburg and Barcelona. Then I think that both Kolding and Wisla, if they do everything right, can challenge for the FINAL4. Alingsås and the qualifier are underdogs in this group. Hopefully we will produce a good effort in every game and maybe we can get some points.

What does the participation in the VELUX EHF Champions League mean to you and your club?

Mikael Franzén: It will be a great party for our club and for the town of Alingsås. We will have the best in the world as guests and it will be a great event.

Which teams are your personal favourites to reach the VELUX EHF FINAL4 and to win the title this season – and why?

Mikael Franzén: Kiel of course is a FINAL4 Team .Then we have a couple of teams such as Flensburg, Paris, Vardar and Dunkerque, which I think will fight for the last spot for the FINAL4.

Alingsås HK (SWE)

Qualification for the 2014/2015 VELUX EHF Champions League season: Swedish champions

Newcomers: Rickard Frisk (Caperiotuma), Emil Frend Öfors (Caperiotumba), Oscar Bergendahl (HK Aranäs), Andreas Flodman (Västerås Irsta HF), Fredrik Larsson (VfL Gummersbach), Olivier Löwenius (HP Alingsås), Rasmus Torbjörnsson (Redbergslids IK)

Left the club: Alexander Johnsson (LIF Lindesberg), Alexander Axelsson (Sörhaga HK), Alexander Borgstedt (Ystad IF), Erik Nilsson (HP Warta), Glenn Andersson (Rya HF), Markus Stegefelt (IFK Skövde)

Coach: Mikael Franzén (since 2012)

VELUX EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2014/2015 season): 2
Group Phase: 2009/10

Other EC records:

EHF Cup:
Last 32 1999/00

Swedish champions: 2009, 2014 

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor