All-German clash in rematch of 2017 finalArticle
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SEMI-FINAL PREVIEW: Füchse coach Velimir Petkovic wants to take revenge against his former side Göppingen, while the defending champions are on the hunt for their fifth trophy.
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All-German clash in rematch of 2017 final

For the second time in a row, two German teams will meet in the semi-final of the EHF Cup – and for the second time in a row, Frisch Auf Göppingen are part of the domestic derby.

After beating this year’s hosts SC Magdeburg on home ground to pave their way to the final in 2017, Göppingen will lock horns with Füchse Berlin – their 2017 final opponents, who they beat 30:22 to raise the trophy. But the Foxes, including former Frisch Auf coach Velimir Petkovic, are out to strike back.

• With four titles, Göppingen are record EHF Cup champions – two trophies won in both the old and new format
• Tim Kneule has the chance to claim his fifth trophy with Göppingen
• Göppingen and Berlin have both been crowned winners of the EHF Cup on home ground

Frisch Auf Göppingen (GER) vs Füchse Berlin (GER)
Saturday 19 May, 17:00 local time, live on

Since December 2016, when Velimir Petkovic became coach of Füchse Berlin, his side have faced Frisch Auf Göppingen five times – and beat Petkovic’s former club on four of those occasions. Berlin’s only defeat was a truly painful one, as they lost the EHF Cup Finals 2016/17 in Göppingen 22:30 and had to watch as Frisch Auf received their fourth EHF Cup trophy.

Göppingen’s first two titles, in the old EHF Cup format, were won in 2011 and 2012 – and Petkovic was the mastermind behind these successes before he and the team went separate ways in 2013.

Since Petkovic’s departure, Frisch Auf have seen a series of different coaches. Though he steered Göppingen to the titles in 2016 and 2017, Swedish-born coach Magnus Andersson was sacked in the autumn of 2017, to be followed by ‘Handball Professor’ Rolf Brack.

Brack continued where Andersson had stopped, and Göppingen now have the most impressive series of success in the history of this competition: since the 27:29 defeat in the first leg of the 2015/16 quarter-final in Magdeburg, Frisch Auf have been unbeaten, with 21 victories and only one draw – in the qualification for this season, against Arendal from Norway.

Like in the 2016/17 season, Göppingen won all six group matches and, also as in the previous year, Brack’s club has been much more successful in the EHF Cup than the German Bundesliga – proven by results such as the two clear defeats against Füchse (19:33 in Berlin, 32:38 on home ground).

“Again, our only chance to qualify for the EHF Cup is to win the trophy,” says Brack, for whom Füchse have the deeper squad with higher quality. Some of his players, such as Tomas Urban (ruled out), Allan Damgaard, Daniel Fontaine, Anton Halen and Jens Schöngarth (all in question) are injured. But Berlin are also hit by injuries: defence boss Marko Kopljar is ruled out, as is his Croatian compatriot Stipe Mandalinic, while line player Erik Schmidt is in question.

“Last year, we played a dominant season. Göppingen were weak in the Bundesliga, but when it came to the EHF Cup Final, everything was turned around,” says Petkovic, who expects a “classic 50:50 encounter.”

While Göppingen quite easily cruised through their quarter-finals against Chambery, winning both the home and away matches, Berlin needed a miracle to make it to Magdeburg. Füchse lost the first leg 20:28 in Nexe, Croatia, but were then pushed to a sensational 25:16 home win by more than 5,000 fans in their arena.

The match will be a special experience for Croatian line player Kresimir Kozina, who had his last international match for Füchse in the 2017 final, before joining Göppingen. While approximately 200 fans from Göppingen are expected in GETEC Arena, Berlin will count on around 400 supporters from the German capital.

Berlin’s Danish right wing Hans Lindberg can hope for two trophies in Magdeburg, as the top scorer of the 2016/17 season is currently leading the 2017/18 list with 67 goals.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cg