Weinhold expecting no special treatment at FlensburgArticle
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FEATURE: 2014 VELUX EHF Champions League champion faces his old club Flensburg with his new club Kiel in the Last 16 duels

Weinhold expecting no special treatment at Flensburg

After meeting in three finals (1998, 2007, 2014), one quarter-final (2006) and a bronze medal match at the EHF Trophy in 2001, SG Flensburg-Handewitt and THW Kiel will collide in the VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16 this Sunday, the earliest stage for a meeting between the sides in European competition.

The two legs will be match number 77 and 78 in official competition. THW have won 47 previous encounters, Flensburg 25 and four matches have ended in a draw.

In Europe, Kiel took four victories (including the EHF Cup Final in 1998 and the EHF Champions League title in 2007), Flensburg three (including the Champions League trophy in 2014) and one match, the first leg of the 2007 Champions League final, ended in a draw.

One current THW player who will be in focus on Sunday (19:30 hrs local time) in Flensburg is Steffen Weinhold. The 28-year-old right back moved from Flensburg to Kiel last summer, shortly after he had won the biggest title in his career at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in June 2014 with SG, beating neighbours Kiel 30:28 in the final.

After two seasons in Flensburg, the German international was signed as the successor of Christian Zeitz (now Veszprem) in Kiel. Weinhold has already played at his former club this season, losing the derby at Flensburg in the German league 22:26.

“I have had this kind of ‘reception’ already. There’s nothing special about me. I believe that the Flensburg fans don’t like anybody from Kiel anyway,” Weinhold told ehfCL.com, adding: “There is always a very special atmosphere in the arena regardless of the opponent. If you are an away team you have to do all you can to prevent the fans from giving their team a certain tailwind.”

Tactical surprises

Weinhold does not expect himself to be a helping hand for his coach Alfred Gislason in terms of the Flensburg tactics: “Alfred is focusing so much on researching match videos, so he knows exactly how Flensburg will play will be and how SG coach Ljubomir Vranjes will think. I am sure that Ljubo will try something new, but so will Alfred.”

THW Kiel only won one of three away matches in Europe at Flensburg – in 2006, when they had lost at home and were eliminated by SG in the EHF Champions League quarter-finals. At that time Weinhold still was playing for his home club Erlangen, before he transferred first to Nordhorn (2007-2009) and Großwallstadt (2009–2012) then arrived at Flensburg.

As his former club, the defending champions, finished only fourth in their group, which means they have the home right in the first leg. Weinhold is sure that this match on Sunday will already be decisive: “We should only focus on the first leg without having our home match one week later in the back of our heads, even though it is an advantage to be backed by our fans.”

Bearing in mind that the results are almost always close when SG face THW, Weinhold expects nothing different over the two legs.

“Every derby in previous years was tight. As we were group winners of course our ambition is to proceed to the quarter-finals. But without being hit so hard by injury problems Flensburg would never have finished the group phase in fourth place. Now nearly all those injured players are back, which make things really hard for us.”

To win the VELUX EHF Champions League trophy last season after an incredible weekend, with wins over Barcelona and Kiel, was a sensation for Weinhold, but he hopes that arriving in Cologne was not a once-in-a-lifetime-experience: “Last year it was our goal and our dream to make it to the VELUX EHF FINAL4, at Kiel it is always a demand.”

And after nearly ten months in Kiel, the runner-up in the German Handball Player of the Year 2014 vote can only think of one major difference between life at his former and new club: “At Kiel I have to wash my training clothes myself.”

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor