When two speedy wingers meetArticle
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FACE TO FACE: Thursday’s match between IFK Kristianstad and FC Barcelona Lassa includes a meeting of the fast and efficient wingers Kristian Björnsen and Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson

When two speedy wingers meet

When IFK Kristianstad and FC Barcelona Lassa meet in the Kristianstad Arena on Thursday evening, wingers on both sides may play an important role.

Right wing Kristian Björnsen of Kristianstad and left wing Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson of Barcelona are both among some of the crucial players in their respective teams, not least for their counter attacks.

27-year-old Norwegian international Björnsen and 36-year-old Icelandic international Sigurdsson have met a couple of times this season already.

In their first meeting in the VELUX Champions League and at the EHF EURO 2016 in Poland both of these men came face to face.

They are also going to see quite a lot of each in the coming years, as both will be playing in the German Bundesliga from next season onwards – Björnsen in HSG Wetzlar and Sigurdsson with Rhein-Neckar Löwen.

Both players hold each other’s skill set in high regard:

“Gudjon is one of the absolutely best wingers in the world. He is a particularly lethal weapon in the counter attacks, and he is most certainly a player, from whom any winger can learn a lot.

“I am really looking forward to meeting him again and also to play against him in the Bundesliga next season. Even though there are many fantastic players in the Bundesliga, I am sure he will stand out there as well,” Kristian Björnsen tells ehfCL.com.

Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson returns the compliment.

“Before we faced each other at the EURO in Katowice, I had already said that this young Norwegian squad is one of the most interesting teams in whole of Europe. I got to know Kristian at the EURO and in our first leg a bit as player, not as a person, and I have to say I like his style of play.

“Despite his unusual height for a wing player, he is very fast. Besides, he has a huge variety in his shots from the wing position. If he stays on path, he will have a great future ahead of him, and I can witness it in German Bundesliga from next season onwards.

“Playing in the Champions League and gaining international experience every week is important for players like him, and transferring to the German league was the logical next step for Kristian,” finds Sigurdsson.

Exciting newcomers

Unlike Barcelona, who are in the Champions League year after year, Kristianstad are newcomers in the tournament.

“It has been really great to play matches against some of the best teams and players in the world. It has brought us along a lot as a team and definitely as a player,” says Kristian Björnsen.

He and his teammates still have a theoretical chance to proceed to the Last 16.

"We do not believe much in that chance, though. We need to get at least three points in our last two group matches, (against Barcelona and KIF Kolding Kobenhavn) and other results will have to go our way too, so we will probably have to be content by having set our mark on the group,” says Björnsen. 

Sigurdsson’s and Barcelona’s approach to the last group matches is obviously quite different, as the Catalan side is leading the group.

“It is our approach to finish on top of the group, so can reward ourselves with two free weekends; then we would skip the Last 16. Though only two of 14 matches are ahead, remaining on top is tough with this away match and the game against Löwen ahead.

“Just by looking at the composition of the Groups A and B you can see how equal all those teams are. Except for the home defeat against Kielce everything went as planned,” says Sigurdsson.

Barcelona are ruling VELUX EHF Champions League winners, but since the VELUX EHF FINAL4 was inaugurated in Cologne in 2010, no team has been able to defend their title.

“It’s time to end this! We want to go all the way and finishing on top of the group helps you a lot,” Sigurdsson comments.

Both sides expecting a tough match

In the first group phase tie between the two teams this season, Kristianstad offered impressive resistance in the Palau Blaugrana, and Barcelona were only able to grab a narrow 34:32 win.

In that game, Kristian Björnsen scored 11 of the 65 goals he has scored for Kristianstad in the Champions League so far this season.

He hopes his team will be able to give Barcelona another difficult match.

“Of course, it will be extremely tough, and Barca are obviously favourites."

Sigurdsson is very impressed by the Swedish champions who have got five points in the group so far.

“I was not surprised about how well they play, as they have a strong team. But I was surprised about their consistancy. I had expected that their level would decrease after the EURO, but I was wrong. Their games against Kielce and at Skopje were brilliant.

“We are absolutely aware of the danger they pose. Löwen lost there, Kielce tied, so we must play at 100 per cent to be victorious. Even in away matches they were never demolished. We had to struggle hard to beat them in our Palau Blaugrana and even in Skopje, Kristianstad were close to tie. This team is really stable,” finished Sigurdsson.

TEXT: Peter Bruun & Björn Pazen / bc