Kiel expect no walk in the parkArticle
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LAST 16 PREVIEW: Four-goal deficit is a heavier burden for THW Kiel against MOL-Pick Szeged compared to last season.

Kiel expect no walk in the park

Every time since the 1994/95 season when THW Kiel qualified for the EHF Champions League, they always made it to the top eight - this impressive series of success can come to an end on Wednesday after losing the first Last 16 leg at MOL-Pick Szeged 29:33. But last season’s experience gives some confidence at the German side.

THW Kiel (GER) vs MOL Pick Szeged (HUN)
Wednesday 23 March, 18:30 (CET) live on ehfTV

“Four goals is not the end,” says Kiel’s striker Marko Vujin. “Nothing is decided yet, it’s only half-time,” adds Juan Carlos Pastor, coach of Szeged.

Kiel gave a perfect position from their hands in the first leg, after losing 29:33 despite a 28:26 lead and the three-time EHF Champions League winners are under pressure.

The only time Kiel missed a semi-final in this competition since 2007 was five years ago, when they were eliminated by eventual winners FC Barcelona in the quarter-finals. Never before Kiel failed in the round of Last 16.

On the other hand, Szeged proved their abilities of kicking out German teams in the previous season, when they ousted Rhein-Neckar Löwen in the same stage.

One round later, they faced THW Kiel and won the first leg at home (31:29), but then were clashed by Kiel in their fortress as the German powerhouse basically clinched the VELUX EHF FINAL4 berth already at the half-time (18:10).

But things have changed. Kiel lost important players the likes of Aron Palmarsson or Filip Jicha, while Szeged have improved - and now the gap after the first leg is a double of the last year's size.

“Those four goals practically mean nothing, they can be gone within some minutes if we start like we did one year ago,” said outstanding Pick goalkeeper Jose Manuel Sierra who is aware of the very special situation in the Sparkassen Arena.

Except the defeat against Paris Saint-Germain Handball in November 2015, Kiel did not lose a single match in Europe's top flight competition in their home arena since four and a half years.

Also, they have never been eliminated by a Hungarian team in the knock-out stage of this competition, beating Szeged and even more often Veszprém on aggregate in the quarter-finals mostly.

“Hopefully, we have learnt from our mistakes. It is not enough to have only 15 strong minutes per half, you need to stand strong for 60 minutes, if you want to proceed,” said Marko Vujin.

And Kiel's manager Thorsten Storm added: “If our fans can cause the same great atmosphere on Wednesday night like the Szeged fans did on Sunday, we have our fate in our own hands again. Nothing is lost so far.”

Christian Dissinger, who had his comeback match in Hungary after his abductor injury occurred during the EHF EURO 2016 in Poland, has his own calculation for the re-match: “If we start with a 4:0 run, we are at zero, and usually when we are at zero we win our home matches. I am confident that we can make it.”

The “gift” for the aggregate winners is not only the next step towards the VELUX EHF FINAL4, but also a classic in the quarter-finals, as either Kiel or Szeged will face the defending champions FC Barcelona Lassa in the next round.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / es, br