Top arrivals, a dominant qualification and long-term hopes for the FINAL4Article
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Women’s EHF Champions League countdown: SG BBM Bietigheim (GER). With an initial goal to repeat last year’s success and rank among the 12 best teams, Bietigheim are out to make a mark in their second Champions League season
»2018-19 Women's News

Top arrivals, a dominant qualification and long-term hopes for the FINAL4

They were the most dominant team in the Women’s EHF Champions League 2018/19 Qualification in September – and now German runners-up SG BBM Bietigheim are looking forward to their second straight appearance in the top-flight competition.

After making it to the EHF Cup Final against Rostov in the 2016/17 season, on their international debut, coach Martin Albertsen’s team qualified for the Champions League Main Round last year. And now? Hopes are high and the chance looks good to make it a step further.

What impact will the new players have?

It is not only the four new arrivals that will bolster Bietigheim’s squad. The same holds true for team captain Kim Naidzinavicius, who was out since December 2017 with a torn cruciate ligament, as well as Dutch star Maura Visser, who missed the whole previous season due to pregnancy. Those six – all of them key players – will bring the team forward.

Goalkeeper Dinah Eckerle was the perfect replacement for Dutch Tess Wester (now Odense), while Laura van der Heijden will be the new number one on the right back. Swedish international Daniela Gustin has Champions League experience and young Kim Braun is a fighter on the wing. Bietigheim will definitely be stronger than last season!

Can Bietigheim make it to the knock-out stage?

Due to many injury problems and as Bietigheim fired Nina and Susann Müller after internal problems in January, there was no chance to hope for the quarter-finals in their first Champions League year. The first hurdle is to proceed to the main round, but the squad should be strong enough to leave at least Kristiansand behind and even to fight with FTC for second place in the group.

Looking at parallel Group C, with Györ, Thüringer HC, Podravka and Krim, it might be the all-German duel with THC that proves crucial in the battle for tickets to the quarter-finals. If the key stars return from the EHF EURO 2018 fit and without injuries, the gate to the quarter-finals should be wide open.

How tough is the parallel programme with Bundesliga and Champions League?

Though a German team never won the Champions League or even made it to the semi or final, the general level of the league has grown. More teams fight for the domestic trophies and, in contrast with many other countries, there is not one dominant team. The domestic competition could be a factor, as, in case of the qualification for the main round, Bietigheim would have 12 weeks with two matches each, including travels. “This is one reason why we extended our squad,” says coach Albertsen.


So sehen Sieger aus! #sgbäääm

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Under the spotlight: Laura van der Heijden

The Dutch international, who already played in Germany some years ago, adds international experience and shooting power to Bietigheim’s squad. Already in preparation and in the qualification tournament she proved what an important role a left-handed right back can play. Being the successor of former World Championship top scorer Susann Müller is not easy, but van der Heijden is confident enough to become one of the leaders in the team.


Despite many injury problems, Bietigheim hope to repeat the success of their first Champions League season in 2017/18, which saw them make it among the 12 best teams: “Our main goal is to make it to the main round again. Facing appealing opponents such as CSM Bucuresti and FTC, this shall be our first and foremost ambition,” says manager Gerrit Winnen.

“We played against FTC last year, and now we want to show that we have stepped up. We also faced Vipers before and know about their strength. CSM consists of so many top players. It will be a great opportunity to duel with the best and see if we can tease them,” adds team captain Naidzinavicius: “It will be tough, but we will do our best.”

It is not only the sporting perspective that is important for SG: “We want to grow both nationally and internationally as a brand and develop our team to reach the EHF FINAL4 in the long run,” says Winnen.

Fun fact

Coach Martin Albertsen has the experience of coaching four teams, which either have been or still are part of the EHF Champions League: Danish sides Viborg and Randers, and German clubs Leipzig and Bietigheim. The Dane has also been coach of the Swiss national team since 2017. His cousin Katrine Fruelund is two-time Olympic champion (2000, 2004) and won the EHF EURO 2002.

What the numbers say

No other Women’s EHF Champions League 2018/19 participants count on more Dutch players than Bietigheim. Alongside new arrival van der Heijden and Visser, who is back after maternity leave, four players who were EURO 2016 silver medallists and World Championship 2017 bronze medallists are key for the German runners-up. Kobenhavn have three Dutch players in their squad; Györ two.

SG BBM Bietigheim (GER)

Qualification for the Women’s EHF Champions League 2018/19 season:
German runners-up, winner of qualification tournament

Newcomers: Dinah Eckerle (Thüringer HC), Daniela Gustin (Randers HK), Laura van der Heijden (FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria), Kim Braun (Bayer 04 Leverkusen)

Left the club: Nicole Roth (Neckarsulmer SU), Tess Wester (Odense Handbold), Martine Smeets, Mille Hundahl (beide Molde HK), Nina Müller (Randers HK), Cecile Woller (Ajax Kopenhagen), Susann Müller (Silkeborg), Mia Biltoft (destination unknown)

Coach: Martin Fruelund Albertsen (since December 2014)

Team captain: Kim Naidzinavicius

Women’s EHF Champions League record:
Participations (including 2018/19 season): 2
Main Round (1): 2017/18

Other EC records:
EHF Cup:
Finalists: 2016/17

German league: 1 title (2017)


TEXT: Björn Pazen / cg