A new defence boss and tough opponents
They will play two familiar faces and a debutant – and again FC Midtjylland are starting with the hope of at least making it to the main round. “We are in the group of death this season again,” says team captain Veronica Kristiansen.
Three questions before the new season:
– Can Midtjylland cause another upset like in the previous season?
In the group matches of the 2016/17 season, FCM eliminated big favourites Rostov Don. This season, they will face the Russians again. And they will have the chance of beating Györ again, what the Danish runners-up managed last season, too. The quarter-finals against eventual finalists Vardar were the end of the road. Another quarter-final berth is the big dream of the former EHF Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup champions.
– How can FCM cope with the loss of their defence boss?
As former team captain and defence boss Sabrina Jacobsen has joined several fellow Swedish players at CSM Bucuresti, Midtjylland will have to change the middle block. With experienced Dane Trine Troelsen and tall Norwegian Tonje Löseth, two strong defenders have come to FCM and are supposed to form the middle block with Swedish line player Linn Blohm.
– Can FCM stand the pressure of new top side Odense in Denmark?
Two FCM top players – Stine Jörgensen and Trine Östergaard – have joined the team of former national team coach Jan Pytlick, and the first duel in the Danish league ended in a 24:17 defeat for Midtjylland. Like champions Nyköbing, FCM are supposed to be the hunter, not the hunted this season. But having tough competition in the domestic league can strengthen a squad for the Champions League.
Under spotlight: Veronica Kristiansen
The Norwegian left back, EHF EURO winner in 2014 and 2016 and world champion in 2015 – will carry a huge responsibility as new team captain, succeeding Sabrina Jacobsen. The 27-year-old Kristiansen arrived two years ago from Glassverket and continues a long history of Norwegian top players at Ikast, like for example Gro Hammerseng-Edin or Katja Nyberg.
“We got a hard draw again, but we are setting positive goals anyway. We showed a kind of X factor last season so I am confident and looking forward to a great tournament”, says manager Jakob Mølgaard Christensen, who hopes for at least a ticket to the main round. “We have a tough group with two of the strongest teams in Europe, Györ and Rostov.”
Team captain Kristiansen is also speaking of “a tough draw” before adding: “We are going to fight hard in every single game. We always go out on the court to win, and we must have that in mind as well in these games. We know it will be tough but we can beat some of the teams at home court, I am sure.”
Sabine Englert is the only non-Scandinavian player in the current FCM squad. And the experienced goalkeeper – a former German international – is the only player in the squad with experience at Champions League finals: In 2008 she was playing for Hypo Niederösterreich when the Austrian side were defeated by Zvezda Zvenigorod.
What the numbers say
Denmark still is the most successful nation in terms of Champions League titles (three each for Slagelse and Viborg) and, alongside Hungary, the only nation with two different Champions League winners. But the last trophy dates back seven years. Since the implementation of the EHF FINAL4 in the 2013/14 season, FCM has been the only Danish club to qualify for the final tournament. The Danish league is placed second in the EHF ranking.
FC Midtjylland (DEN)
Qualification for Women’s EHF Champions League season 2017/18: Danish runners-up
Newcomers: Trine Troelsen (Silkeborg-Voel), Jessica Ryde (H 65 Höör), Tonje Løseth (TuS Metzingen), Annika Jakobsen (Skanderborg Håndbold), Julie Gantzel Pedersen (Ringkøbing Håndbold), Helene Fauske (Stabæk IF), Mathilde Bjerregaard (Silkeborg-Voel), Anne Mette Pedersen (København Håndbold)
Left the club: Stine Jørgensen (Odense Håndbold), Trine Østergaard (Odense Håndbold), Martina Thörn (Randers HK), Rut Jönsdöttir (Team Esbjerg), Simone Petersen (Aarhus United), Sabina Jacobsen (CSM Bucuresti), Elin Lindén (VästeråsIrsta HF)
Coach: Kristian Kristensen (since September 2016)
Team captain: Veronica Kristiansen
Women’s EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2017/18 season): 11
Semi-finals (2): 2002/03, 2013/14
Quarter-finals (3): 1998/99, 2004/05, 2016/17
Main Round (4): 2003/04, 2008/09, 2011/12, 2015/16
Group Matches (1): 2003/04
Qualification (1): 2014/15
Other EC records:
Cup Winners’ Cup:
Winners (2): 2003/04, 2014/15
Semi-finals (1): 1999/2000
Winners (2): 2001/02, 2010/11
Final (1): 2006/07
Semi-finals (2): 2007/08, 2012/13
Winners (1): 1997/98
Final (1): 1996/97
Semi-finals (1): 1994/95
Danish league: 4 titles (1998, 2011, 2013, 2015)
Danish cup: 7 titles (1991, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2012, 2014, 2015)
Author: Björn Pazen / ew