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Preview of the match of the week: THW Kiel - Atletico Madrid

kire 01 12 2012

The titans meet again - this time at the Sparkassen-Arena in Kiel: After the giant battle of two finalists of the previous season of the VELUX EHF Champions League had already been the Match of the Week in Round 1, the re-match of two of the most successful handball teams will excite the spectators in the arena, in front of the TV's or the computers again. But things have changed a bit since THW and Atlético faced end of September – as both lost some matches and both are below MKB Veszprém, the top ranked team of Group B in the current VELUX EHF Champions League. In the first match in the Spanish capital THW Kiel took revenge for the defeat in the IHF Super Globe final just three weeks before and took the fortress Vistalegre by a clear 32:27 victory. Like in September, Madrid will have to replace their goalkeeper José Javier Hombrados due to injury, on Sunday. And after losing against Kiel, Madrid also were defeated by Veszprém on home ground and later-one beaten at IK Sävehof. Kiel lost at Veszprém too and surprisingly were clashed at RK Celje. So the constellation before this giant's duel is clear: Only the winner can still have hopes to stop the Hungarians on their way to the group victory.

The dress rehearsals of both were quite different on Wednesday evening - both faced domestic teams, which currently play in the final qualification stage for the newly installed EHF Cup Group Phase. As Kiel impressively took the points at former leader of Bundesliga Rhein Neckar Löwen by an 28:17 away victory to become the new leader of the ranking by their 52nd consecutive unbeaten match in Bundesliga, Madrid gave their first point of this season from their hands. In a thrilling battle at BM Aragon finally a double strike of left wing Jonas Källman prevailed Madrid from a defeat and saved one point at the 24:24. On the other side it was just of all things Alex Dujshebaev, son of Atlético coach Talant Dujshebaev, who showed a brilliant performance, scoring eight goals for Aragon. Madrid are now one point below the top ranked FC Barcelona Intersport after 12 rounds in Asobal league. Some players will be in a special focus in the Match of the Week on Sunday: Of course the goalkeepers. If Thierry Omeyer saves as against Löwen, it will be like a wall for Atlético. On the other hand young Norwegian Magnus Dahl improved in the previous matches, but will have to cope with the special atmosphere in the fully pack arena with 10.250 spectators.

Two left-handed Balkan shooters might be decisive too: Macedonian Kiril Lazarov (Madrid) and Serbian Marko Vujin (Kiel), who had been Lazarov's successor at Veszprém before. And it is the duel of the young vs. the old on the playmaker position - when Olympic Games All-star team member Aron Pálmarsson (Iceland, Kiel) will compete with two times world handball player of the year, Ivano Balić (Croatia, Madrid). In total, four current or former Olympic champions, six world champions, five EHF EURO champions, two former EHF Champions League top scorers and four former world handball players of the year will face on Sunday. Both teams imprinted the past seven years of this competition like no others: No EHF Champions League final had been carried out since 2005, in which not either Madrid (former name Ciudad Real) or Kiel - or both - had participated. Both clubs have each three VELUX EHF Champions League trophies in their cabinet: The Spaniards took all titles named Ciudad Real in 2006, 2008 and 2009, Kiel have won the trophy in 2007, 2010 and 2012. Three times both teams faced in the final of the European top flight, two times Atlético was the winner, once Kiel. Both clubs participated in each six VELUX EHF Champions League finals: Madrid in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012, Kiel in 2000, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012. The match statistic is quite equal: In 13 fixtures no match ended with a tie, Madrid took six victories, Kiel seven.